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Understanding the FAFSA Simplification Act

The FAFSA Simplification Act actually does simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form. For most people, it will go from more than 100 questions down to 36. As anyone who has filled out a FAFSA knows, this is very good news.

The New FAFSA will open by Dec. 31

The U.S. Department of Education announced on Wednesday, November 15, 2023, that the new simplified 2024-25 FAFSA will be available to students by December 31, 2023. While you can’t do anything right now, you can prepare as you wait.

After the new form opens in December, FAFSA will start processing the submitted forms in January 2024. Delivery of completed FAFSA information to colleges will be delayed until mid to late January or February. Your data will then need to be processed by your chosen colleges, and your financial aid offer letters sent to you.

The best things you can do to get your aid information as quickly as possible are:

  • File your 2024-25 FAFSA form as soon as you can after the new site opens.
  • Submit it electronically through the FAFSA site – paper submissions won’t be processed until February.
  • Be sure you indicate the colleges you want your information sent to. CMU’s code is 002243.
  • Be accurate! Any changes that need to be made will delay your offer letter.

Be patient. This is the most significant revamping of the FAFSA form since the 1980s and will affect everyone applying for financial aid.

Read on to be ready to fill out your FAFSA when the site opens.

More Michigan students can now attend CMU tuition-free through the CMU Tuition Advantage program. 

CMU Tuition Advantage program info


Changes to FAFSA

A December open date

In the past, the FAFSA form has opened on October 1 of your student’s senior year in high school. This year the new Better FAFSA won't open until December. Federal Student Aid (FSA) hasn't released a specific date yet. There will be announcements when it’s official.

Shorter FAFSA form 

There's a new system that allows the FAFSA to pull information directly from your income tax return. You don’t have to go hunting for your past returns anymore. You just need to give your consent for the transfer of data.

You must create a log in 

This interface between the simplified FAFSA and the Internal Revenue Service means your private information must be protected. When you try to use the FAFSA, you’ll be directed to a form to give your consent and create an FSA ID, if you don’t already have one.

Basically, it’s a username and password. FSA will then verify your information, and you can log in.

Because there's security involved, there will be multi-factor verification to log in using your FSA ID. Your online bank or credit card site may have something like this. When you log in, you’ll get a text or phone call to a number you’ve provided. This verifies who you are before allowing you onto the site.

Changes to your family contribution

The new Student Aid Index

A major goal of the FAFSA Simplification Act is to make the amount of aid your student is eligible for more transparent and predictable. In the past, the FAFSA determined aid using the Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). It was a complicated process even for financial aid specialists. Families often had no idea how much they could receive until they got their financial aid offer from the college.

The new Student Aid Index (SAI) is streamlined and better defined. Under certain circumstances, low-income students can be eligible for need-based aid using only the family’s adjusted gross income taken from their income tax return. The new SAI streamlines procedures for students with more complicated income sources as well.

Families with more than one member in college

Under the old Estimated Family Contribution system, if you had multiple family members in college at the same time, your EFC was split between them. Under the new Student Aid Index, the Better FAFSA will still ask the question, but it doesn’t consider the number of family members in college in its calculations.

For example and using some very simplified numbers: Under the old FAFSA, if your EFC was $3,000 and you had three eligible family members enrolled in college at the same time, each enrolled student could have an EFC of $1,000. This would have increased the amount of federal aid they could receive. Now in the Better FAFSA, each of the three will have an SAI of $3,000, decreasing the amount of federal aid.

Changes to Pell Grants

“The federal Pell Grant program is the single largest source of federal grant aid supporting postsecondary education students,” according to The Congressional Research Service (August 2022). These grants are need-based, and you don’t have to pay them back. Your FAFSA form determines your Pell Grant amount.

Pell Grants will now be calculated using the SAI or under certain circumstances, your gross Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) from your tax return. This should simplify eligibility.

The SAI and AGI levels for aid have also been adjusted and should result in more students qualifying for more Pell Grant money. Since the new form is shorter and simpler, there’s no excuse not to apply. In fact, it’s always best to file your FAFSA each year whether you think you qualify or not.

Changes for special or unusual circumstances

Under the new simplified FAFSA, financial aid administrators at colleges must let families know that students who apply for aid can pursue adjustments based on their family and financial circumstances. This process is known as professional judgement. In certain circumstances, it can extend to declared disasters, emergencies or economic downturns.

Changes can mean delays, so file early

As with any new system, there may be a few bumps in the beginning. Filing early is the best way to have the time you need to get into the new system and submit your FAFSA.

The new simplified FAFSA form will be shorter and require much less effort on your part to fill out. But, if at any point you have questions, the financial aid administrators at Central Michigan University are ready with answers. Reach them at 989-774-3674 or You can learn more about the FAFSA and financial aid here.

If you want the full information currently available on the FAFSA Simplification Act, check out the Congressional Research Service report on The FAFSA Simplification Act.

Blog: All Things Higher Ed posted | Last Modified: | Author: by University Communications | Categories: University Communications
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