Starting the 2024-2025 award year, the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) Simplification Act will be put into effect, impacting the way aid is awarded and the structure of the form itself.
Some of the most prominent changes to the form include the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) being replaced by the Student Aid Index (SAI), more accessible Pell Grants, a faster application process and a different way of defining “family.”
In years past, FAFSA has been available to complete beginning on Oct. 1, but for the upcoming year, the release has been delayed.
Beth Johnson, director of student financial assistance at Miami University, said the idea behind these changes is to make the application process easier.
“It represents just a major overhaul of the processes and systems used to award federal student aid,” Johnson said. “The main goal of this is to make applying for federal student aid easier for students and parents.”
Johnson said the SAI will have a significantly lower minimum family contribution than the EFC did.
“Students are going to see a different measure of their ability to pay for college,” Johnson said. “The methodology behind the EFC and SAI is completely different now.”
In the past, Johnson said the EFC could be no lower than zero, representing a student’s parent who contributed nothing towards their education. Now, with the SAI, it can be as low as negative 1,500.
The simplified format also redefines family to align with the IRS definition and will rely on data directly from the agency. With this new formula, the family information from tax returns is what will be used, and Pell Grant access will expand.
Regardless of whether students think they are eligible for financial aid or not, Johnson said that they should still fill out the FAFSA.
“No matter what your income is, you’re going to qualify for some financial assistance,” Johnson said.“Even if you have $1 of need, you could be eligible for other university aid as well. We look at every FAFSA that comes in and what they’re eligible for, through not only the federal government, but the state and university funds.”
Becca Blanco, a sophomore professional writing member, is the recipient of a Federal Pell Grant. She said this grant is important in making college accessible to students.
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“Things happen, and for a lot of students that are trying to break cyclical poverty or are first-generation students, it can be really difficult to fund higher education,” Blanco said. “I think Pell Grants make it so much more accessible to people that don’t have the luxury of parents with a college fund for them.”
Blanco is excited about increasing access to Pell Grants because she believes in the importance of higher education.
“The more people that can attain help for higher education, I think the better,” Blanco said. "If we want to live in a society of educated people and make sure they want to return to quality, I think making funds accessible is a fantastic move.”
Meg Cominek, a first-year double major in microbiology and data science and statistics, filled out the FAFSA in the past and plans to continue to do so in the future. Though she doesn’t believe she is eligible for much financial assistance, she still fills out the form because there are many different types of aid accessible through the FAFSA.
“It’s important to try to get the money if you can,” Cominek said. “It’s like applying for scholarships. You’re not going to just assume that you’re not going to get a scholarship. If you want some help for college, the best thing you can do is at least try and get some money from the government.”