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Your Money, Your Independence Financial Aid Changes to Impact This Fall’s College Applications

Glenn Brown

We’ve come to expect Congress naming new legislation that exaggerates impact but does little to be true to its name. 

Inflation Reduction Act. Secure Act. American Rescue Plan Act.

Now add “FAFSA Simplication Act”, which makes the upcoming 2024-2025 college admissions process a complicated mess. 

To be balanced, here are the benefits per advocates:  

• Easier FAFSA application process with a reduced number of questions. 

• The Federal Pell Grant expands to more students and will link eligibility to family size and the federal poverty level. 

• The Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) has been replaced by the Student Aid Index (SAI).

This last one is interesting because SAI is based on a comprehensive database of education costs that includes tuition and fees, room and board, and other living expenses. The index also includes data on financial aid awarded to students, such as grants, scholarships, and loans. 

By calculating the average cost of college for a given school and comparing it to the average amount of financial aid awarded, the index can provide a more accurate estimate of the student’s EFC and help make more informed decisions about which school to attend.

Ok, enough of the accolades, let’s get to the complications and impact.

Two Different Views. Both students and parents must create a Student Aid Account to get an FSA ID before completing the form. Previously a shared sign-on allowed for a singular view, now each completes their respective sections and continuity becomes more challenging. 

No longer does the most capable parent complete. For divorced or separated parents, the one providing greater financial support over past calendar year must now complete the FAFSA. Yes, not the parent most engaged to ensure accuracy and meet deadlines, but the one who provides the most money. So much for a fiduciary process. 

Paying for two or more kids in college at same time? Who cares. The number of students a family has enrolled in college will no longer factor into the FAFSA calculation. 

You aren’t selling the farm or small business you’ve built, but if you had to…? The net worth of family farms and small businesses with under 100 employees will now be required as part of the application. Maybe having to sell is a strong ask, but borrowing against isn’t - otherwise, why ask now? 

All applicants, especially Early Action / Early Decision (EA/ED), your school’s deadlines will be before FAFSA opens. Historically, FAFSA opens October 1 and EA/ED deadlines followed in mid-October through November. Per the federal government, this year FAFSA has “an anticipated December 2023 launch date”. The colleges aren’t waiting around, they’re keeping October and November EA/ED application deadlines, including CSS Profile schools.

For example, state university UMass-Amherst has a Early Action deadline of November 5 and Regular Decision of January 15, but the FAFSA priority deadline is March 1 and state deadline for Massachusetts is May 1.

CSS Profile school Williams College states, “The FAFSA is not an initial requirement for the 2024-2025 academic year, given the uncertainty of the FAFSA Simplification Act application timeline. Enrolled students will be required to complete the FAFSA by May 15th.”

So don’t prioritize completing the FAFSA before submitting your college applications this year.  

Instead work on the admissions application now, continue your student’s building of a relationship with the university’s local academic recruiter and stay focused on Return On Investment (ROI) during the selection process. 

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Glenn Brown is a Holliston resident and owner of PlanDynamic, LLC, Glenn is a fee-only Certified Financial Planner™ helping motivated people take control of their planning and investing, so they can balance kids, aging parents and financial independence.

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