Changes to FAFSA will bring expanded eligibility and streamlined application process 

The 2024-25 FAFSA will be available in December instead of October because of a major update that will make the form more user-friendly and expand federal financial aid eligibility.   

The FAFSA Simplification Act involves a significant overhaul of the processes and systems used to award federal financial aid. The law, which was passed by Congress in 2020 as a part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, will affect every school that participates in federal student aid programs.  

Here are four major changes that are being made to the FAFSA: 

  1. The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will be replaced with the Student Aid Index (SAI). It will determine what need-based grants and scholarships a student is eligible for. The SAI is generated based on the information a student inputs into their FAFSA form.  
  1. The form will be more streamlined and user-friendly. This means there will be fewer questions and an easier way to transfer tax information directly to the IRS. However, applicants will be required to use the IRS Direct Data Exchange, a process that automatically transfers your tax information from the IRS into the FAFSA. 
  1. Access to Federal Pell Grants will be expanded. The process will link eligibility to family size and the federal poverty level. Access will also be given to incarcerated students in federal and state penal facilities. Lifetime eligibility for the grant will also be restored to students whose school closed down while they were enrolled or if it is found the school has misled the student. 
  1. Family Definitions in FAFSA formulas will be modified. This change will align a student’s family size more with what was reported on the student/parents tax returns. 

Assistant director for the office of financial aid Danni Sparks discussed what the changes mean, noting the expanded eligibility for federal aid is a great reason for students to fill out the form. 

“We are going to see some students that haven’t qualified for Pell Grant,” Sparks said. “We’re also going to see the opposite, though, in some cases, so each student’s going to be different. But we do think everyone should apply and see what that looks like.” 

Sparks also gave insight on tax information being automatically transferred into the form.  

“They’ve streamlined a lot of the process linking with the IRS to pull tax data,” Sparks said. “That used to be the hardest part … going through the tax form, finding the lines that it told you to find and making sure you’re putting in the right information.” 

According to Sparks, contributors can complete their FAFSA from any location and at any time within the application window. This change will make it easier for students who are filed as a dependent but live far away from home. 

 Sparks encourages students to fill out the FAFSA because all students qualify for federal loans, and they provide backup options in case a student’s payment plan falls through and they can’t pay out of pocket. 

The Federal Student Aid website has an estimator students can use to calculate how much aid they can expect to receive.  

Students who fail to fill out the FAFSA by UCCS’s priority filing date of March 1, 2024 may miss out on state institutional grants.  

Due to the FAFSA changes, UCCS scholarship applications will open on Jan. 2, 2024, a month later than the usual Dec. 1 date. 

Sparks emphasized to be aware of these deadlines. “The biggest thing we find is people miss deadlines, and that’s what ends up costing them the most,” she said. 

For more details on the changes being made to the FAFSA, students can visit the Caltech Website for a simplified breakdown of the fundamental changes. 

Students with questions about the FAFSA or about student aid in general can email financial aid at [email protected] or call 719-255-3460. 

FAFSA will now be opening in December due to a system update. Photo by Megan Moen.