Have They Finally Simplified The FAFSA

Filing FAFSA seems difficult, and many students and families may get frustrated. Almost 60% of high school students don’t fill out the FAFSA every year. That means they are giving up on a valuable amount to help them pay for college. Surveys show that most of them think they will not be able to qualify for any aid. Further, the actual and apparent burden of the FAFSA form also plays a role. Previously, it may have confounded people trying to complete it. Some people didn’t even try it, thinking that it’s just not worth the effort. The FAFSA simplification, therefore, had become a goal of lawmakers and advocacy groups. Several attempts were made to simplify the process, but it seems like it has become even more complicated now. In the past decades, the Department of Education has already made a series of improvements to the financial aid form. These improvements include transferring information directly from the IRS, and students could use the older tax information. This way, they could get financial aid information earlier in the application process. But those changes were short-termed and always fell short of goals.

The changes due to COVID-19 relief legislation could affect Federal Student Aid and the FAFSA. The purpose of making all changes in the free Application for Federal Student Aid form is to make the process easier. But, don’t expect that FAFSA in October 2021 will become easier to fill. You know, all the government things take time. The new simplified FAFSA form also expands the eligibility for many types of student aid. This new form is much shorter and contains questions based on your family’s financial situation only. These changes will apply to students filing FAFSA in October 2022 for attending college in 2023. This document can help students unlock the necessary financial aid to help them pay for college. Here are some important changes students should be familiar of:

Questions: There are around three dozen primary areas of questions. You’ll have to answer the subset following the answer given. Students need to directly input more information from appropriate federal tax returns using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. 

EFC: The Expected Family Contribution in the student Aid Index will change significantly. 

Pell Grants: The federal Pell grants will be available to more students, and they would get maximum or partial grants. The option of “lookup table” will be available to help customers check where they are standing. Legislators believe that after these changes, almost 1.7 million more students will be able to qualify for the maximum Pell grant each year. Furthermore, these changes allow hundreds or thousands more students to receive partial awards.

Form completion: The FASFA plan will cover almost all aspects of a student’s life to provide him the maximum support. The student whose parents are divorced or separated must have to receive financial support from any or both of them. The parent who is providing a greater portion of the student’s financial support will be responsible for completing FAFSA. 

COA: The changes for defining the Cost of Attendance are also expected. Colleges will have to provide the proper cost details on their website. The students having an extremely low income will be able to get financial aid exceeding the cost of attendance.

Untaxed Income: The definition of untaxed benefits and income needs to be more streamlined. Changes will be made to streamline them. As the untaxed benefits and income will no longer include some items, this change can be significant. These items may include workers’ compensation, child support, veterans’ education benefits, and certain other forms of income and benefits. Child support will be treated differently from income, so it will be added to the definition of assets.

Income protection: The income protection allowance will be updated. Important changes for students and parents will be made to it. However, no changes will be made in Asset Protection Allowance.

Multiple students: Previously, the families having multiple members attending college need to divide the parent assessment among that number. As a result, the aid amount available to middle-income and high-income families could reduce. But now, they will no longer need to divide the parent assessment among the number of children studying in college. 

Simplified needs: The applicants that are exempt from asset reporting will have to qualify for an updated Simplified needs test. These changes will help to clarify the applicants that are exempt from reporting assets on FAFSA. 

Formula and Appeals: The formula used for determining the financial aid will also be updated. Some important changes will be made to it. The financial aid appeals process will also be updated.

Two roadblock questions will be removed: The questions for the Selective Service will be removed from FAFSA. It is no longer a must for registration. The drugs’ convictions will no longer disqualify applicants, and such questions wouldn’t be included on the FAFSA. Furthermore, the new form will be available in 11 languages so that everyone can understand it.

While some other areas also need changing, it is also a good start. Hopefully, these changes will motivate more families to file FAFSA and qualify for federal financial aid. The state governments, colleges, and some private scholarships will receive the applicant’s basic information. They will use this information to make important aid decisions. The proof will be in the pudding. The new law will mandate new conditions and require Federal Student Aid to implement these changes to the student aid process. 

Takeaway

Students opting for financial aid need to file a FAFSA form. This form is so complex that most families get confused and don’t file it at all. The Department of education is trying to simplify the process. We’re hoping for simplification in the form to be filed in 2022 for the educational year 2023. Students applying for federal financial aid will see a shorter, more straightforward application form in the future. They need to answer questions related to their financial information only and are more likely to qualify for aid. 

Are you a higher education institution that needs a better process for administering financial aid or covering staff turnover in your financial aid department? Contact us today!