Current and Transfer Students

The U.S. Department of Education will release a new, simplified version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) sometime in December 2023. 

You’ll be relieved to learn it has fewer questions – from more than 100 questions to as few as 18 – but the form is different, and it’s opening later than usual. (If you’re the type of student who likes to fill out their FAFSA ASAP, 1. We appreciate you. 2. We know you’ve been waiting since October 1.)

These changes were meant to make things better: About 1.5 million more students from low-income backgrounds are expected to receive the maximum amount of Pell Grant funding, and more than 610,000 students will be eligible for Pell Grant funds when they weren’t before.

This page breaks down how things will be different with the new FAFSA.

Current Student FAFSA Checklist Spring 2024

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Get your guide to the new 2024-2025 FAFSA process.

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What Are the Big Changes Under the New FAFSA?

Who Has to Help Complete Your FAFSA: A new FAFSA comes with new terms. And an important new term to know is “Contributor.” A Contributor is anyone who is required to provide info on your FAFSA, and that means they’ll also need their own FSA ID.

Anyone who is a Contributor under the new FAFSA definitions must have a FSA ID and complete their section of your FAFSA for it to be considered complete. Here’s who is considered a Contributor under the new rules:

  • You’re married: Your spouse is considered a Contributor.
  • Parents are married and filed joint 2022 tax returns: Only one parent needs to complete the FAFSA as a Contributor. 
  • Parents are married and filed separate 2022 tax returns: Each parent is a Contributor and must complete their section of the FAFSA for it to be considered complete. 
  • Contributor parent is remarried: Your stepparent is also considered a Contributor and must fill out their section of your FAFSA for it to be considered complete.
  • Parents are divorced, separated, or never married: The parent who provides the most financial support should complete the FAFSA as a Contributor. (Before the new FAFSA, it was based on which parent you lived with for the majority of the time, so this is a change.)

Inviting Contributors: When you, as the student, start your FAFSA, you’ll be asked to provide information for all of your Contributors, and then your Contributors will be invited to complete their section of the form, using their FSA ID. You’ll need to know the following information for each Contributor:

  • Legal name (from their Social Security Card)
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security Number (SSN) if they have one (if they don’t have a SSN, you’ll be asked to provide their mailing address instead)
  • Email address

Consenting to the direct transfer of tax information from the IRS:  Your contributors must consent to allowing the direct transfer of Federal Tax Information (FTI) from the IRS into the FAFSA form in order for you to have a complete FAFSA and be eligible for funding. You can still self-report income, but you must first consent to the FTI transfer.

Other New lingo: Other than being shorter and simpler, some of the terms you’ve come to know and, er … love, have changed. You won’t see an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) anymore – and it was a super-confusing term anyway. Now, when you complete the FAFSA, you will see your Student Aid Index (SAI), which is used to determine your Pell Grant eligibility, and which the college uses to determine its own need-based aid awards. 

SAI Calculator: Curious about what your SAI could be? How about scratching your FAFSA itch by using the SAI Calculator? It’s not official, but it will give you an estimate of your eligibility, and it’s good FAFSA practice.

What is considered an asset has changed with the 2024-2025 FAFSA. Assets now include:

  • Annual child support received
  • Net worth of all businesses, regardless of the size or number of employees 
  • Net worth of farm, including the value of a family farm (with the exception of the family’s primary residence). 
  • Education savings accounts will be counted as parental assets if the account is designated for the dependent student.  

Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re married, your spouse is considered a Contributor.

If you’re a dependent student, you’ll define your Contributors this way. (If you’re not sure whether you’d be considered a dependent student, go through this exercise to find out.):

  • Parents are married and filed joint 2022 tax returns: Only one parent needs to complete the FAFSA as a Contributor. 
  • Parents are married and filed separate 2022 tax returns: Each parent is a Contributor and must complete their section of the FAFSA for it to be considered complete. 
  • Contributor parent is remarried: Your step-parent is also considered a Contributor and must fill out their section of your FAFSA for it to be considered complete.
  • Parents are divorced, separated, or never married: The parent who provides the most financial support should complete the FAFSA as a Contributor. (Before the new FAFSA, it was based on which parent you lived with for the majority of the time, so this is a change.)

When you list your Contributors on the FAFSA, if your parent doesn’t have a social security number you will be prompted to enter their mailing address instead.

Unfortunately, you won’t be eligible for federal student aid. This can include grants, loans, and work study. Consent is required by every Contributor, regardless of their filing status.

The government expects the changes to expand the reach of Pell Grant funding. About 1.5 million more students from low-income backgrounds are expected to receive the maximum amount of Pell Grant funding, and more than 610,000 students will be eligible for Pell Grant funds when they weren’t before.

That said, changes to what assets must be reported on the FAFSA (such as businesses, regardless of the size or number of employees) might change the eligibility for a student who is currently Pell eligible. The formula to calculate Student Aid Index (SAI) is also different from the formula used under the old FAFSA to create the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) under the new funding formula. It doesn’t, for example, take into account how many children a family may have in college at the same time.

When you complete your FAFSA, if you find that your eligibility has changed, it’s a good idea to connect with the Financial Aid office and discuss your circumstances.