Simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form has long been a goal for those who work in financial aid. The required form helps applicants gain access to tens of thousands of dollars in loans, grants, federal work-study, and scholarships.
Federal Student Aid (FSA) introduced the new online FAFSA form October 1, with several changes this year and more to come in the years ahead. The goal has been to eliminate frustration and provide students and families with a faster, easier application process with accurate results. Students and families will likely notice an improved experience as they complete the FAFSA this year.
Key Changes to This Year’s FAFSA Form
The first difference users notice using the new FAFSA form is that they are asked to select their role in the application process – parent, student, or preparer. While this is a simple question, it creates a more user-friendly experience and decreases the mistakes made by users as they complete the form.
The new, simplified form released this year has just 36 questions to answer – as opposed to the 108 questions students and families had to answer in previous years. That alone is a timesaver, but the new FAFSA form’s visual update also makes it a better user experience and more similar to other tools provided on FSA’s StudentAid.gov.
A couple of changes to the new FAFSA form expand eligibility for federal aid.
- Starting October 1 of this year, drug convictions no longer affect student eligibility to receive federal student aid. Applicants completing the FAFSA will still need to answer questions about whether they had a drug conviction for an offense that occurred while they received federal financial aid and, if so, they’ll need to complete a worksheet. The questions won’t impact their eligibility to receive federal financial aid.
- Male students who fill out the FAFSA can also qualify for federal student aid even if they don’t register for Selective Service. (Students can still register through the FAFSA form if they choose.) This is another change that has limited eligibility in past years.
FAFSA Changes Coming in Future Years
Some of the changes we can expect to see to the FAFSA in upcoming years include:
- The Student Aid Index (SAI) will replace Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The new calculation removes the number of students in college from a single family. The minimum EFC is $0, but students will be able to show a minimum SAI of -$1,500. This will increase eligibility for federal Pell Grants.
- With the Parental Income Protection Allowance (PIPA) increasing by 20% and the Student Income Protection Allowance (SIPA) increasing by 35%, this could translate to thousands more in financial aid for families in future years.
- Eligibility for Pell Grants will be expanded based on family size and income compared to the Federal Poverty Level – and incarcerated students or those who have drug convictions will be eligible for Pell Grants and other federal aid.