October 28, 2021

What’s Changing in the New FAFSA and What’s Not

(While there has not been a draft since 1973, men ages 18 to 25 are still required by federal law to register. But FAFSA applicants will now remain eligible for financial aid even if they have not registered, said Mark Kantrowitz, a financial-aid expert.)

The FAFSA collects financial details about students and their families and acts as a portal to grants, scholarships and loans for higher education. Last year, Congress approved changes to the form and the financial aid process, trimming the number of questions by about two-thirds and tweaking its underlying formula for determining who receives aid.

The approved changes include replacing the so-called “expected family contribution,” which applicants found confusing. Instead, a “student aid index” will be used as a guideline for the level of financial help for which a student qualifies. The updated formula broadens access to federal need-based Pell grants and shields more of a family’s income from financial aid calculations. And in a move that has already prompted some opposition, the revised formula eliminates a break for families with multiple students in college at the same time.

Taken together, the changes represent a “significant overhaul” of the student aid process that will take time to put into effect and communicate, according to the student aid office. Most of the changes were supposed to take effect for the 2023-24 academic year. But the office said it would instead take a “phased” approach, delaying some changes by another year, to the 2024-25 school term.

In at least one case, the impact of a future change may be felt sooner. The federal legislation eliminated a question about cash support, so funds taken from grandparent-owned 529 college savings accounts will no longer affect a student’s eligibility for federal aid. That change will probably take effect for the 2024-25 school year, Mr. Kantrowitz said, when the FAFSA would be based on income from the tax year 2022. “So starting next year, 529 plans owned by the grandparents or anybody other than the student or parent will no longer affect eligibility” for need-based federal aid, he said in an email.

Here are some questions and answers about the FAFSA and financial aid:

As soon as possible after it becomes available on Oct. 1, financial aid experts say. Many states and colleges use the form to determine scholarship aid, and some programs award the money on a first-come, first-served basis until available funds are depleted. A list of deadlines for both federal and state aid programs is available on the federal student aid website.

And note: While the federal deadline for filing a FAFSA extends into the summer after a given academic year, waiting until then means you will probably be eligible only for loans. The FAFSA for the current academic year, for instance, has a federal filing deadline of June 30, 2022.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/17/your-money/fafsa-changes-2022.html

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