Quick Guide: All You Need to Know About the New FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2024-25 academic year has been delayed due to changes that have resulted in a simplified form. Normally, high school seniors and college students can access the FAFSA on Oct. 1, but this year it was delayed until Jan. 1.

Here are some important details about the new FAFSA:

When was the new FAFSA application made available? Where can students apply?

The U.S. Department of Education “soft launched” the new FAFSA on Dec. 31. This means that the current form is available for a limited time while the agency monitors the performance of the website. The form may be temporarily unavailable at times, but families and students should try accessing it at a different time. Students can apply by visiting studentaid.gov.

Once the soft launch period ends, students do not need to reapply.

Has the application deadline been extended for California students applying for financial aid?

Yes, due to the application delay, the California Student Aid Commission has extended the priority deadline for students applying to four-year institutions from March 2 to April 2, 2024. For students attending a California community college in 2024-25, the application deadline is Sept. 3, 2024.

What is different about the new FAFSA application?

In response to numerous complaints about the complexity of the old FAFSA, the Department of Education has created a new application that reduces the number of questions and expands Pell Grant eligibility. The new application also integrates with the Internal Revenue Service to pre-populate information into the online form.

The new form is expected to be faster and more efficient for most families. Depending on their circumstances, students may be able to skip up to 26 questions, with some only needing to answer 18 questions.

The new FAFSA also includes updates to its formula calculations to ensure that more students receive aid. Previously, the Expected Family Contribution was used to determine aid eligibility, resulting in families potentially misinterpreting the amount they were expected to pay. The new FAFSA assigns families a Student Aid Index, and families can use the Federal Student Aid Estimator to determine their potential aid eligibility for the upcoming year.

What is the maximum Pell Grant award for the 2024-25 academic year?

The maximum award amount for the 2024-25 academic year has not yet been determined by Congress. However, the maximum award for the previous year, 2023-24, was $7,395.

What about undocumented students?

The student aid commission has introduced an improved version of the California Dream Act Application (CADAA) for undocumented students. While these students cannot apply for federal aid, they can receive state financial aid through CADAA.

Last year, a report from the commission highlighted the difficulties that undocumented students face when trying to access aid in California. The new CADAA simplifies the application process by integrating with the AB 540 affidavit, which students must file with their colleges to declare that they have been California high school students for at least three years. With the updated application, the commission will now inform colleges that students have completed the affidavit.

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