The 2024-25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) ushers in the biggest changes made to the aid application in generations.
How federal aid eligibility is determined and, by default, what is asked on the FAFSA are set by Congress. Legislation passed in 2020 was aimed at simplifying the application process and brings about a number of changes in calculating aid eligibility beginning with the 2024-25 academic year.
When will the 2024-25 FAFSA become available?
With significant changes to the application and the FAFSA processing system being rebuilt, the 2024-25 FAFSA will be delayed from an October 1, 2023, availability date to sometime in December 2023. Updates on an exact availability date will be posted here.
There will be three more obvious changes that all families will experience when completing the new FAFSA.
- Simplification: The FAFSA will reduce in maximum questions from 108 questions to 46. And because the FAFSA on the Web is dynamic, some students won't even be presented with all 46 questions. Recent FAFSAs saw some questions dropped, and others will no longer be asked due to the way that tax and income information is now gathered.
- Tax/Income Data: Previously, students, a student's spouse (when married), and parent(s) (when students are dependent) entered their tax information or used the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) to transfer tax data from the IRS to the FAFSA. Beginning with 2024-25, all persons listing tax information on the FAFSA will be required to use the IRS Direct Data Exchange (DDX) to share tax information or confirm non-filing status. DDX gives ease to the process and reduces questions to be answered. This change also requires the student, spouse, and all parents with tax data reported to get an FSA ID (if you don't each have one already).
- Student Aid Index (SAI): The FAFSA previously calculated an Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). Now the FAFSA will produce the Student Aid Index (SAI). This name more accurately describes a number used to determine aid eligibility within programs and compared to other students. Also, this number, unlike the EFC, can be negative with the minimum SAI being -1500.
EFC becoming SAI is more than a name update. The calculation of the SAI differs from the EFC calculation of the past and makes the following changes that may change your aid eligibility:
- No benefit for having siblings in college: The FAFSA previously divided the EFC proportionally based on the number of the household in college. The elimination of this "sibling discount" will be the biggest change in aid eligibility for some students. The SAI will not use the number in college as a factor in calculation of eligibility. As such, UC students with siblings in college may see a change in their aid eligibility at UC as well as with the aid received by their sibling(s) at UC or elsewhere. The determination to no longer consider number in college was made by Congress and can only be changed by Congress.
- Automatic Pell Grants based on income and household size: Families making less than 175% and single parents making less than 225% of the federal poverty level will see their students receive a maximum Federal Pell Grant award. Minimum Pell Grants will be guaranteed to students from households below 275%, 325%, 350%, or 400% of the poverty level, depending on household structure. Pell awards between the maximum and minimum amounts will be determined by SAI.
- Larger Income Protection Allowances: The Income Protection Allowance (IPA) covers a family's basic living expenses and is excluded from SAI formulas. New, larger IPAs lower the amount of student or parent income considered to be available to pay for college. IPAs will increase by 20% for parents, up to about $2400 (35%) for most students, and up to about $6500 (60%) for students who are single parents.
- Inclusion of family farms or small businesses: When required, families will now report the value of their farms or businesses. While this inclusion continues to be debated in Congress, it will be required reporting for appropriate familes on the 2024-25 FAFSA and can influence the SAI.
What is Not Changing?
While the FAFSA is receiving an update and the aid eligibility calculation has been revised, there are a number of aid-related matters that will not change.
- The FAFSA will remain required for federal aid consideration and will be used as well for institutional and state aid determination.
- Questions introduced in 2023-24 about the applicant's sex, race, and ethnicity have no effect on federal student aid eligibility and remain only for statistical purposes.
- Dependency status questions that determine if your parents complete the FAFSA with you remain the same.
- The FAFSA will request tax information from the prior-prior year. Families with significant reductions in income levels can review the special circumstance process.
- Degree-seeking students will be eligible for student loan amounts assuming they complete the FAFSA and are not default on their previous student loans.
- Undergraduate admission applications at UC should be completed by December 1 for scholarship consideration for incoming students.
- Because some aid programs are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis, an early FAFSA application receives priority consideration for limited funding sources.
- With the 2025-26 FAFSA, the FAFSA is again expected to be available beginning October 1 of each year.
- The FAFSA remains an annual application that continuing students will need to complete each year.
Complete the FAFSA as Soon as Possible
It is important for families to complete the 2024-25 FAFSA as soon as possible once it is available in December 2023.
New undergraduate students for 2024-25 should continue to prioritize their UC admission application completion by December 1 for scholarship consideration.
The FAFSA remains key for new undergraduate and graduate students to get a financial aid award offer from UC (and any other school you are considering). We want you to have a complete financial award as you make your college selection. The delay of the FAFSA availability until December does slightly shorten the window for applying for aid, but UC (and most other schools) will still hope to begin student awarding in mid-February 2024 for new students with FAFSAs on file. Any delays in awarding timelines will be noted here.
Returning college students also want to complete the FAFSA as soon as it is available. While some students will receive more aid through the new SAI calculations, others may receive less. You want to know your aid eligibility sooner than later to make financial plans for continuing your education. Awards for returning students with FAFSAs will begin mid-March 2024 to assist in your financial planning.
Graduate students, because they are primarily eligible for non-need-based loans and university scholarships, will experience a simplified FAFSA but are unlikely to see changes in aid eligibility.
NOTE: 2024-25 FAFSA changes are being implemented by the U.S. Department of Education. Information on this webpage is subject to change as new information becomes available.