What students need to know about the new FAFSA
A simpler version of the federal financial-aid application is almost available. Here are 7 tips that will help you complete it smoothly.
A new streamlined version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid should be easier to fill out and help more college students finance their education.
The simplified FAFSA process could provide $618 million in federal Pell Grants to nearly 220,000 additional applicants, according to a report from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.
But a monthslong delay of the application’s release means students won’t start seeing award letters until sometime during the spring semester, said Kerline Eglaus, Ed.D., executive director of Financial Aid and Scholarships at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
In a typical year, FAFSA applications are available in October for the following academic year and students receive aid letters before the end of the calendar year. But to accommodate the application’s overhaul, the release of the 2024-25 FAFSA was delayed until Dec. 31.
“We appreciate the patience and grace as we continue working around the clock to ensure that our students are getting the best, most timely service as we transition to a better FAFSA experience,” Eglaus said.
The Colorado Application for State Financial Aid is also expected to open on New Year’s Eve. CASFA is the equivalent process for undocumented Colorado ASSET students to apply for financial aid.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education announced that the first month following the release of the FAFSA application would be a “soft launch period, which will allow us to monitor and respond in real time to any potential issues impacting the applicant experience.”
The department said the soft launch period would include planned pauses for site maintenance and updates. During these pauses, users already online will be able to complete their work, but other users may not be able to begin or resume work on the 2024-25 form.
However, the Department of Education assures students that since full processing of FAFSA forms will not start until late January, students and families will have ample time to complete the form and do not need to rush to fill it out during the soft-launch period.
Eglaus said there are practical steps applicants can take now to help them smoothly complete the FAFSA.
Gather necessary materials: Collect essential documents, including Social Security numbers, driver’s-license numbers, Alien Registration numbers (if applicable), tax returns, records of child support and information about cash, savings and checking accounts.
Set up your Federal Student Aid ID: Create a Federal Student Aid ID early to securely access the FAFSA once it launches. This identifier plays a crucial role in the application process and is something you can do ahead of time.
Identify contributors and create separate accounts: Parents and spouses may now be asked to consent to provide information as part of FAFSA calculations. Determine who will contribute information and ensure that each contributor sets up their own separate FSA ID account. The U.S. Department of Education has stated that “Starting in December 2023, parents will be able to get an FSA ID (account username and password) without having an SSN to access and complete their section of the 2024-25 FAFSA form.”
Calculate potential aid: Use available online tools (such as the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Estimator) to calculate your potential federal student aid. Though not definitive, an early estimate can provide insights into the financial support you might receive and help you plan accordingly.
Sign up for a Financial Aid workshop: MSU Denver is hosting several sessions for current and future students starting Jan. 24 to walk through FAFSA/CASFA completion and General Scholarship applications.
Watch out for potential barriers:
- Tight timelines: The delayed launch of the 2024-25 FAFSA means tighter timelines for completion, potentially leading to lower completion rates and enrollment. Normally, turnaround times are five to seven days from receiving federal aid info, but the revamped processes are expected to cause delays.
- Correction challenges: Any necessary corrections or additions to the form can be made only from February onward, further delaying financial-aid MSU Denver students will be notified by email of any missing elements and can view/take action via their StudentHub and MyFinancialAid accounts.
- Communication and deadlines: Stay vigilant about communications from schools, paying attention to updates via mail, email and reach out proactively to financial-aid offices for updates and adhere to each school’s specific financial-aid deadlines.
Eglaus noted that federal and state guidance continues to develop daily and encouraged students and their families to keep an eye on MSU Denver’s FAFSA Simplification page for the most up-to-date information.