Beyond Simplification: Preparing for a New FAFSA Landscape
For the past few years, a simplified Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) has been the talk of higher ed─and now major changes are just around the corner.
“FAFSA simplification” has become shorthand for significant updates planned to federal student aid policy and the FAFSA. These changes are driven by the FAFSA Simplification Act passed by Congress in 2020, which endeavors to make applying for federal financial aid easier for students and families. Although changes have been phased in over the past few years, some of the most critical application updates and institutional impacts arrive this fall with the 2024-25 application cycle.
Once fully implemented, FAFSA simplification will represent the most consequential overhaul of the federal aid application and federal need-analysis system since 1992. Changes include amending the indicator for federal student aid eligibility from Expected Family Contribution (EFC) to Student Aid Index (SAI). Additionally, an increased number of FAFSA questions will be able to be completed using the IRS federal tax return direct data exchange process. The Federal Pell Grant Program will be expanded to more students and will link eligibility to family size and the federal poverty level, making eligibility more understandable and predictable for families.
The Federal Student Aid (FSA) office recently confirmed the plan to deliver the redesigned FAFSA for 2024-25. However, the FSA also indicated the FAFSA may not open on October 1 because of the challenges related to such a major overhaul. Professionals throughout higher education await additional information expected to be released later this year.
To remain responsive to the changing landscape of FAFSA simplification and financial aid, College Board continues to work closely with aid professionals to ensure our programs and services meet the needs of higher education and the students we collectively serve. Learn about just a few ways we’re preparing for simplification this year and beyond.
CSS Profile®, a common application for institutional financial aid, will be ready and available to families applying for aid during the 2024-25 academic year on October 1, 2023. CSS Profile will help institutions deliver equitable financial aid decisions by providing critical data beyond what the FAFSA furnishes. With a few key pieces of additional data, colleges can make more informed decisions about a family’s ability to pay for the cost of education.
As in prior years, CSS Profile will continue to provide an estimated Federal Methodology calculation in addition to CSS Profile’s own Institutional Methodology calculation. The 2024-25 application will be updated to calculate an estimated Student Aid Index (SAI) based on the best information available from FSA rather than an estimated federal EFC. Estimated Federal Methodology calculations will be updated as additional information and guidance from FSA are released.
Gail Holt, dean of financial aid at Amherst College, shares one example of how CSS Profile data will continue to help her institution’s access mission in the upcoming application cycle, "Our institution relies on receiving family financial data in a timely fashion to be able to share financial aid offers at the time a student is admitted. Applicants receiving those decisions in December deserve to have these details. This data may not be available from the FAFSA until late 2023 for the 2024-25 academic year but will be estimated in CSS Profile calculations. This additional information, including special circumstances and medical expenses families may share, is crucial in assessing affordability."
PowerFAIDS™, a comprehensive, affordable financial aid management system, has a long history of delivering critical functionality and features that drive financial aid office efficiencies. The robust Federal Pell Grant processing engine embedded within PowerFAIDS is important to awarding timely and accurate Pell awards to students. With much of FAFSA simplification focused on the Pell Grant program, including the introduction of the Student Aid Index, the PowerFAIDS team is actively listening and planning software changes as draft FAFSA specifications are provided by the office of Federal Student Aid. The October software release will include an initial version of estimated Federal Methodology based on the best information available from FSA at that time. Federal calculations will be updated as additional guidance from FSA is released. PowerFAIDS is committed to keeping our methodology and software updated quickly as information is shared from FSA.
Net Price Calculator
Affordability remains a leading priority in the college decision-making process for parents and students. College Board’s Net Price Calculator helps families demystify the cost of college by providing a customized, clear way to estimate their true cost of college. Our Net Price Calculator supports recent FAFSA simplification cost of attendance changes and will continue to be updated to reflect related regulatory changes, including estimating federal awards under the new requirements as information is available.
College Board will continue to support institutions, students, and families with financial aid programs, services, and resources throughout the FAFSA simplification process. To learn more about our work in amplifying the critical role of financial aid professionals and increasing higher ed access and equity through need-based aid, contact us at [email protected].