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FAFSA Simplification 

The 2024-25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is now available! 

What is FAFSA Simplification?


The FAFSA Simplification Act represents a significant overhaul of the processes and systems used to award federal student aid starting with the 2024–25 award year. This includes the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form, need analysis, and many policies and procedures for schools that participate in federal student aid programs.

FAFSA simplification changes include the first major redesign of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process in over 40 years, along with updates to the backend systems that process and store federal student aid application data. The goal is to make applying for federal student aid easier for students. FAFSA simplification implements provisions of the amended Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act and the FAFSA Simplification Act.

Benefits to Students, Families, and Borrowers.

Replacing the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) with the Student Aid Index (SAI)

Students and families will see a different measure of their ability to pay for college and experience a change in the methodology used to determine aid.

Expanded Eligibility for Federal Financial Aid

The FAFSA Simplification Act will expand the Federal Pell Grant to more students and link eligibility to family size and the federal poverty level (estimating 500k more Pell-qualifying students).

* Based upon National Averages and is not a guarantee of Pell eligibility.

A Better User Experience for the FAFSA Form

The new FAFSA will offer a more streamlined application process making it less daunting for students and their families. It will feature fewer questions, and fewer requirements, and retrieve tax information using a direct data exchange from the IRS instead of the previous IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

Key Changes:

  • As a result of needed changes brought about by the FAFSA Simplification Act, the 2024-25 FAFSA was not available on the traditional October 1st date. The 2024-25 FAFSA is currently live as of January, 2024.
  • The total number of questions on the application has been reduced and the application will maximize the use of previously collected data.
  • A student is now referred to as the “applicant” and anyone else who is asked to provide information on the aid application (student’s spouse, student’s parent(s), and/or stepparent(s) are referred to as a “contributor” to the application.
  • Everyone contributing to the FAFSA form online must have their own FSA ID.
  • Contributors without a Social Security Number will now be able to apply for an FSA ID.
  • All students and contributors must provide consent to have their federal tax information transferred directly in the FAFSA form from the IRS via direct data exchange.
  • The Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) has been replaced by the Student Aid Index (SAI)
  • The FAFSA Simplification Act expands the Federal Pell Grant to more students and will link eligibility to family size and the federal poverty level.
  • The SAI will be used by schools to determine eligibility for federal financial aid programs.
  • SAI will no longer consider the number of students in college. This may result in lower need-based aid eligibility than in prior aid years for dependent students with siblings in college.  

What can you do now to prepare for the 2024-25 FAFSA?

  • Apply for an FSA IDif you don't have one already.
    • Both the student and all parent contributors will need an FSA ID to electronically sign the FAFSA when it is released.
    • This must be completed at least 3-5 business days BEFORE completing the FAFSA.
  • Locate your tax returns from 2022. If you didn't save a copy, request a free tax transcript from the IRS.

Terminology Changes:

Each contributor will now need to provide their consent during the FAFSA completion process to allow their Federal Tax Information (FTI) to be included in the FAFSA, even if they did not file a U.S. tax return. 

A contributor refers to anyone who is required to provide information on a student’s form and provide consent and approval for federal tax information (FTI) along with their signature on the FAFSA form, including the student, the student's spouse; a biological or adoptive parent, or a stepparent. 

The system is used to transfer individuals' tax information to determine federal aid eligibility. This replaces the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). 

Output document providing a summary of data input on the FAFSA form received after completing the FAFSA application. This replaces the Student Aid Report (SAR). 

Beginning with the 2024-25 award year, all applicable FAFSA contributors must consent to the retrieval of federal tax information from the ISR for purposes of determining a student's eligibility for Title IV Financial Aid. 

A calculation based on the FAFSA allows the school to determine how much need-based financial aid you may be eligible for.  This replaces the Expected Family Contribution as the method for need-based aid determination. 

“FAFSA® Simplification Act: On Dec. 27, 2020, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act. The law includes provisions that amend the Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act and includes the FAFSA Simplification Act—a sweeping redesign of the processes and systems used to award federal student aid. Specifically, the law makes it easier for students and families to complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form and expands access to federal student aid.”

The benefits of FAFSA simplification include:

  • A more streamlined application process.
  • Expanded eligibility for federal student aid.
  • Reduced barriers for certain student populations (e.g., homeless, and unaccompanied youth, incarcerated students, English language learners, and students from low-income backgrounds).
  • A better user experience for the FAFSA form.

Significant changes to the application process include changes to the FAFSA form, how students and families complete the application, and the eligibility calculation.

  • The FAFSA form will be updated and streamlined to improve access.
    • The FAFSA form will be expanded to the 11 most common languages spoken by English learner students and their parents. Language-specific resources and support will also be available from the FSA Information Center.
    • The form will be consumer-tested with prospective first-generation students and families, as well as students and families from low-income backgrounds.
    • The form will include new demographic questions about an applicant's gender and race/ethnicity.
    • Foster, homeless, and unaccompanied youth-as well as applicants who cannot provide parental information-will be able to complete the form with a provisional independent student determination and receive a calculated Student Aid Index (SAi). Students who have their independent student status approved by a financial aid administrator will also be eligible for a renewal of their dependency status in subsequent years if their circumstances remain unchanged.
  • Rather than importing their tax information using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, applicants will consent to provide their Federal Tax Information (FTI) via a direct data share with the IRS. This enhanced data sharing simplifies the applicant's experience.
    • Consent to provide their FTI is required for all applicants and contributors for the applicant to be awarded Federal Title IV Aid.  
  • Eligibility for federal student aid will be expanded in the following ways:
    • Selective Service and drug conviction questions will be eliminated to reduce applicant barriers.
    • A new methodology will be introduced to calculate and determine applicant eligibility. The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will be replaced with the Student Aid Index (SAI).
    • The new need-analysis formula allows for a negative SAI calculation and implements separate eligibility criteria for Federal Pell Grants.
    • Federal Pell Grant access will be expanded and linked to family size and federal poverty levels, which will allow more students and families from low-income backgrounds to qualify.

Federal Pell Grant access will be restored to incarcerated students under specific rules and programs.

FAFSA simplification will be implemented in phases. Certain changes began in the 2021-2022 Award Year and full implementation of major provisions will occur during the 2024-2025 Award Year.

While the FAFSA is typically ready on October 1, the 2024-25 FAFSA will be ready sometime in December. It is required by law to be ready by January 1 at the latest. We know that is a long time to wait but we have adjusted all of our timelines on our end so that we can support you.

You can check our website for updates on when the form is ready. In the meantime, you and your family should create your FSA ID(s), if you have not already done so, so you will be prepared to fill out the FAFSA.

All students and any applicable contributors will be required to have one. If parents file their taxes separately, then both parents need one. If parents file jointly, then they only need one between the two of them.

If a student or contributor has previously completed the FAFSA and created an FSA ID, they will be able to continue using that FSA ID.

EFC and SAI are both numbers that colleges use to figure out how much financial aid you can get. EFC stands for Expected Family Contribution, and SAI stands for Student Aid Index.

EFC is based on your family's income and assets. SAI is based on your family's income, assets, and other factors, such as your zip code and your parents' education level.

While the words and the numbers are different - what is important to understand is that this number helps colleges determine your eligibility for different types of financial aid including grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study programs.

EFC has been used for determining aid eligibility for the 2023-24 aid years and prior. SAI will be used moving forward starting with the 2024-25 aid year.

In order to be eligible for Federal Title IV Aid you and your contributors must provide consent on the 2024-25 FAFSA form. When you provide Consent and Approval you agree to the following:

  1. To share your personally identifiable information (PII) provided on the FAFSA form with the IRS.
  2. To have your federal tax information transferred directly into the FAFSA form via the direct date exchange (DDX) with the IRS.
  3. To let the U.S. Department of Education use your federal tax information to determine your eligibility for federal student aid.
  4. To allow the Department to share your federal tax information with schools listed on your FAFSA form and state higher education agencies for their use in awarding and administrating financial aid.
  5. To allow the Department to reuse your federal tax information on other FAFSA forms that you are invited to and choose to participate in.

It is important to note that when your contributors provide their consent and approval, it does not mean they are responsible for paying for your education.

If you are a dependent student and your parent refuses to provide consent and approval on your 2024-25 FAFSA form, you will not be eligible to receive federal student aid.

Through the direct data exchange (DDX) from the IRS to the FAFSA form the following taxpayer information is provided:

  • Tax year (e.g., 2022 tax year information for the 2024-25 FAFSA);
  • Tax filing status;
  • Adjust Gross Income (AGI);
  • Number of dependents;
  • Income earned from work;
  • Taxes paid;
  • Educational tax credits;
  • Untaxed individual retirement arrangement/account (IRA) distributions;
  • IRA deductions and payments;
  • Untaxed pension amounts
  • Tax-exempt interest;
  • Schedule C net profit/loss;
  • Indicators for Schedules A, B, D, E, F, and H  

The information required when inviting a contributor (student, independent student's spouse, or dependent student's parent) to complete the FAFSA includes the contributor's:

  • Legal name (from their Social Security Card);
  • Date of birth;
  • Social Security Number (SSN) if they have one;
  • Mailing address if they don't have an SSN; and
  • Email address

For example, when a dependent student invites a parent who has an SSN, they must enter the correct SSN in the invitation screen (shown below) along with the contributor's legal name, date of birth, and email address. The legal name, date of birth, and SSN have to match what the parent used when setting up their FSA ID. There is a crosscheck between the FAFSA and FSA ID system to make sure the parent is getting linked up with the correct student’s FAFSA. When a parent does not have an SSN, the student checks the "My parent doesn't have a SSN" box on the invitation screen and it will flip to asking them to enter the parent's full mailing address instead; the mailing address will have to match what is in the parent's FSA ID to complete the linking process.

If the student incorrectly entered any of the parent's information, the student will have to go back in and correct it before the parent will be able to log in and link up with the student's FAFSA.

The email address used to invite a contributor does not have to match the email address in that contributor's FSA ID. For example, the student does not have to use the same email address that is in the parent's FSA ID when they invite the parent to contribute. When the contributor logs in with an FSA ID, the email address does not have to match what is in the invitation. This means that, at the time of the initial invitation, the same email address can be used for multiple contributors (e.g., the student and the parent). Note that the parent is not logging in with an email; they have to log into their section using their FSA ID. The name, date of birth, and SSN will have to match what was in the invitation in order to have access to the student’s FAFSA.

Prior to the release of the updated FSA ID process (scheduled late 2023), the contributor can set up an FSA ID without an email. After ED updates the FSA ID process, an email will be required. If the contributor tries to log into a 2024-25 FAFSA and their FSA ID does not have an email address in it, the contributor will have to stop and add the email address to the FSA ID, but it still won’t have to match what was in the invitation.