Updated: Sep 27
Mel Rising Dawn Cordeiro
FASFA: everyone’s favorite time of the year. You’ve studied hard all year, made good marks and now it is time to think about next year while simultaneously struggling through the end of your school year. But wait — there’s more: you still need to file your taxes. Taxes can be a complex and frustrating topic, but the good news is that FASFA will no longer be.
December 27, 2020 saw the passage of the FASFA Simplification Act as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act passed by Congress. The passage of this law included provisions to amend the Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education, or simply, the FUTURE Act. All this fancy wording means that the FASFA form has become more accessible and more user friendly while also expanding access to federal student aid.
Some of the updated changes include the Student Aid Index (SAI), replacing the Expected Family Contribution section. This allows for a different measure of a student’s ability to pay for college. The means used to calculate and crunch these numbers are also different, now taking into consideration poverty level and family size.
Another significant change is in the Federal Pell Grant. More students will be eligible for this grant, which is also using new formulas to calculate eligibility. It is estimated that about 15% more students will be eligible. Incarcerated students will also regain their ability to receive the Pell Grant. Lifetime eligibility will be restored to students whose schools closed while they were enrolled, or if the student was subjected to false certification of their loan, identity theft or a borrower defense loan discharge.
The FAFSA Simplification Act now mandates that the U.S. Department of Education Office of Federal Student Aid use federal tax information received directly from the IRS to calculate Pell Grant eligibility and SAI.
Questions about Selective Service registration and drug convictions have been removed and questions about applicants’ sex and race/ethnicity have been added. Additionally, students who are homeless, orphans, former foster youth or who have other unusual circumstances that prevent them from providing parental information on their FAFSA form will benefit from simplified questions and processes that more efficiently determine their independent status.
Schools will now need to make more information about their costs of attendance publicly available to students and their families, including loan fees and other expenses that students may directly or indirectly pay to complete their program of study.
Financial aid offices at institutions will have additional flexibility in adjusting a student’s eligibility for federal student aid due to special or unusual circumstances. This expansion will help certain students who have unique family situations, such as a loss of income or a change in housing status. The law also provides additional flexibility for financial aid professionals to assist students who cannot provide parental information on their FAFSA form.
Schools will now have the ability to address a student’s special or unusual circumstances by adjusting their cost of attendance, the student’s dependency status on the FAFSA form. Schools will also now be able to access and assess the components that determine Pell Grants. All the above may be used to determine a student’s circumstances. As is the case with costs of attendance, schools will need to make their policies and procedures for reviewing these processes, called professional judgments, publicly available.
For more information, or to simply gain more knowledge, please visit:
2: Financial Aid Toolkit - Find outreach tools to help guide others through the FAFSA simplification changes: financialaidtoolkit.ed.gov/bfbf
3: Customer Service Center - Connect with FSA service centers to assist students, parents, and borrowers: fsapartners.ed.gov/helpcenter/fsa-customer-service-cente