FAFSA Changes and You, What to Do?

Issue 21: November 29, 2023

The following article is for educational and entertainment purposes only and is not intended as financial or legal advice.

Greetings, ladies, gentlemen, and all in between; the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA as we so lovingly call it, is getting a shake-up for the upcoming application cycle, so I wanted to write a brief overview of the most significant changes coming for the 24-25 academic year. Let’s start with why the FAFSA is getting a shake-up in the first place. The short answer? Politics, and the long; well, this batch of changes is the third phase incorporated into the FAFSA in the last three years due to the “The FAFSA Simplification Act.” If you are anything like me, you were unaware of these past changes, which are largely irrelevant to your average college student. Still, they are detailed in the FSA (Federal Student Aid) article I am sourcing if you are interested.

Now, what you came here for is changes to the 24-25 FAFSA as opposed to previous years. The two most significant changes are A. the FAFSA opening delay from the typical October 1st date and B. the transition from EFC (Expected Family Contribution) to SAI (Student Aid Index).

The first one is easy; due to the changes in progress to FAFSA, the Department of Education has pushed back the form opening before December 31st. The second is a tad more complicated; in years past, upon completion and processing of the FAFSA form, the government would then calculate an EFC for use in determining financial need. The name “Expected Family Contribution” would imply how much money a student’s family can expect to contribute to their education, but Uncle Sam could have been a little clearer.

This number is the government calculating your need to compare you to other applicants applying for Federal Aid, or as I often describe to those who care to listen, how legally poor you are in the government’s eyes. Your EFC can be as low as zero or as high as 999,999. However, this new FAFSA will change to the SAI or Student Aid Index name. This change clarifies arguably the most crucial document for U.S. college students. The difference is primarily cosmetic, except that the SAI will be able to dip as low as -1500 to calculate further need between those who all used to have an EFC of 0; however, those with a negative EFC will convert to 0 for awarding purposes.

The significant changes in the FAFSA formula are the following, according to the FSA article I am using:

  • Removal of the number of family members in college from the eligibility calculation
  • The possibility for an SAI to be a negative number, with a minimum SAI of -1,500 instead of zero
  • Elimination of alternate EFCs for enrollment for a period other than 9 months
  • Elimination of the Simplified Needs Test (SNT) and Auto-Zero calculations, which have been replaced with similar calculations described below

Aside from changing the formula to exclude the number of family members in college (usually siblings), most of these will only apply to a few traditional students. However, a significant change not included on this list is that students must now use the tax filings for the parent that provides the most financial support for split/divorced parents rather than the parent they lived with the most.

The final significant change I want to note is the increased income cutoffs for federal aid eligibility. I could bore you with the exact numbers, but those changes are only beneficial, meaning, in theory, more people should get aid.

I will leave you with the formula FSA uses to determine financial need and the knowledge that the maximum Pell Grant is now much easier to obtain automatically than before. This slight adjustment means many more should be getting the maximum.

​​Cost of Attendance (COA) – Student Aid Index (SAI) – Other Financial Assistance (OFA) = Financial Need

Suppose you are in a particular case or want to be fully informed, I recommend you read the FSA article I am paraphrasing for yourself or contact the financial aid office at financialaid@mcm.edu and 325-793-4713 or stop by in person in Maedgen from 8:00 AM-5:00 PM Monday-Friday.