Student Aid Index (SAI)
The Student Aid Index (SAI) is a number used by schools when determining eligibility for federal student aid. It can also be tied to state and institutional aid eligibility.
Why the change to SAI?
FAFSA Simplification brings about a new FAFSA for 2024-25 and beyond. It reduces the number of questions on the FAFSA and changes the calculation of aid eligibility from your submitted information.
The name of the key FAFSA result does make a difference. The EFC, despite its name, rarely equated to the amount a family contributed to their education. It was more often an index to aid eligibility so why not call it as such. SAI reframes the result of the FAFSA calculations to more accurately describe a measure used to determine aid eligibility and compare students when limited funding is available.
Additionally, while the EFC had -0- as its lowest possibility, the SAI can go to -1500. This lower floor helps to spread out and better differentiate high-need students.
How is SAI used?
The SAI can be as low as -1500 and has no ceiling. As an index number, the SAI allows Student Financial Aid to differentiate and compare students for aid eligibility. The lower the SAI means the higher the financial need of the student based on federal methodology.
Direct Aid Eligibility
Some aid programs, particularly grants, will be limited to specific SAI ranges. For instance, a need-based grant may require an SAI of 5,000 or less for eligibility. Sometimes the SAI and a FAFSA deadline will be used together as eligibility criteria.
For Federal Pell Grants, maximum and minimum Pell Grant awards are determined based on family income and family size relative to national poverty determinations for the same year as the taxes reported on that aid year's FAFSA.
Eligibility for Pell Grants outside of maximum and minimum thresholds is determined by subtracting your SAI from the maximum Pell Grant award for the year and rounding to the nearest $5. In cases of a negative SAI, use -0- in this calculation.
Students can more easily anticipate if they are eligible for a Pell Grant as they have to fall within the limits for maximum and minimum considerations or their SAI has to be lower than the Pell Grant maximum award amount. Maximum Pell Grant award for 2023-24 was $7,395. Maximum Pell Grant award for 2024-25 will be determined in February 2024.
Eligibility Based on Financial Need
Additionally, the SAI is used in calculating an individual student's financial need. To do that, Student Financial Aid will calculate the SAI against the student's cost of attendance (COA). We are required to determine a COA (including tuition and non-tuition expenses) for each student receiving aid. Factors including tuition group, enrollment intensity (part-time v. full-time), living arrangement (on-campus, off-campus, v. with parents), and the number of semesters you enroll in an academic year combine to give you a Student Financial Aid-determined COA budget.
Using this COA budget and SAI, the overall aid eligibility for the student is determined.
COA - SAI* = Financial Need
*a negative SAI becomes a -0- in this calculation
Financial aid now is restricted by two eligibility limits:
- Financial Need: Further eligibility for need-based funding is limited by this number.
- Most state and federal aid is need-based (other than Federal Direct Unsubsidized and PLUS Loans).
- All scholarships (even if need is not a factor in determining eligibility) are considered need-based per federal regulations and can limit federal need-based aid eligibility.
- COA: The overall cost of attendance determined by Student Financial Aid is the maximum eligibility in combined aid a student can receive.
- Note that your personal expenses may differ from those COA expenses budgeted by Student Financial Aid.
- There are regulations limiting what can be considered by Student Financial Aid in creating your COA budget.
With limited aid sources, few students reach the financial need or COA limits. It is very rare that your financial aid package will cover your full financial need or all costs.
However, when federal aid is involved, exceeding either of these limits is considered an overaward and requires reduction of aid sources. An overaward correction has to occur no matter when the overaward is created (even if a refund has been issued the student). Students will be informed via email when an overaward correction is made, and your award offer online will be revised to reflect the change(s).