FAFSA Simplification

FAFSA Simplification Act — Important updates you need to know

Big changes are coming to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2024-25 aid year. 

While the new application will be streamlined and easier to complete, it will also bring significant changes to the calculation of federal Pell Grant awards and include changes to some financial aid terminology.

As more news about the updated FAFSA becomes available, The Office of Student Financial Aid (OSFA) will update this page so that Mason students, families, and our campus community remain ready for the new process.

Why is the FAFSA Changing?

From the U.S. Department of Education:

"On Dec. 27, 2020, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act. The law includes provisions that amend the Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act and includes the FAFSA Simplification Act—a sweeping redesign of processes and systems used to award federal student aid. Specifically, the law makes it easier for students and families to complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form and expands access to federal student aid.” 


What is Changing with the FAFSA?

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A new open date
Normally, the FAFSA becomes available October 1  each year, but the 2024-25 FAFSA will be available by the end of December 2023. 
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“Expected Family Contribution” (EFC) is changing to "Student Aid Index" (SAI)
The SAI is a number that determines each student’s eligibility for certain types of federal student aid and will be used for awarding need-based grants, loans, and other aid types.
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A streamlined application
You’ll notice fewer questions and a new Direct Data Exchange (DDX) secure system that makes it easier to transfer Federal Tax Information (FTI) directly from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) .

New terminology

Returning applicants will also notice a few new terms, such as... 

  • Contributor - A parent or student spouse who is asked to provide information on the FAFSA
  • Consent - Each contributor will need to consent to their information being included on the FAFSA
  • Other Financial Assistance (OFA) - All scholarships, grants, loans, and other assistance; replaces the previous term "estimated financial assistance (EFA)"

What is NOT Changing with the FAFSA?

The best way to access aid

  • Students are required to complete the FAFSA to be considered for federal aid, and it will also continue to be used when determining institutional and state aid.

  • Students still need to complete the FAFSA on an annual basis.

  • Degree-seeking students will be eligible for federal student loans if they complete the FAFSA and are not in default on previous student loans.

Early completion is still valuable

  • Since some aid is awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis, early FAFSA applications receive priority consideration for limited funds.

Returning questions

  • Questions introduced in 2023-24 about the applicant's sex, race, and ethnicity have no effect on federal student aid eligibility. These questions are only used for statistical purposes. 

  • Questions about dependency status that determine whether your parents complete the FAFSA with you remain the same. 

  • The FAFSA asks for tax information from the prior-prior year.

How Do I Prepare for the FAFSA Changes?

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Mark your calendar for December 2023
We’ll update here once we know the official date that you can complete your 2024-25 FAFSA.
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Check here often for updates 
This is the biggest update to the FAFSA in 40 years! We will provide additional updates here as more information becomes available.

Digging Deeper into the FAFSA Changes

  • Simplification:

The new FAFSA reduces the maximum number of questions from 108 to 46. Since the FAFSA on the Web is dynamic, some students won't even be presented with every question. The FAFSA dropped some questions in recent years, and additional questions will no longer be asked due to changes in how the application gathers tax and income information.  

  • Tax and Income Data:

Previously, students, their spouse (when married), and parent(s) (when students are dependent) entered their tax information directly or used the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). Beginning with 2024-25, all contributors listing tax information on the FAFSA must use the DDX to share their information or confirm non-filing status. DDX eases the process and reduces the number of questions on the application. This change also requires the student, spouse, and all parents with tax data reported to get an FSA ID if they do not already have one.

  • The Difference Between SAI and EFC:

The SAI more accurately describes the number that determines aid eligibility within programs and in comparison to other students. Unlike the EFC, th SAI can be a negative integer. For example, the minimum SAI is -1500, rather than zero.

EFC becoming SAI is more than a name update. The calculation of the SAI differs from the EFC calculation, resulting in the following changes that may affect aid eligibility: 
  • No benefit for having siblings in college:

The FAFSA previously divided the EFC proportionally based on the number of individuals in a the household in college. Elimination of this "sibling discount" will cause the largest change in aid eligibility for some students. The SAI will not consider the number in college as a when calculating eligibility. As a result, students with siblings in college may see a change in their aid eligibility and in the aid received by their sibling(s) at Mason or elsewhere. This change was made by Congress and can only be changed by Congress. 

  • Automatic Pell Grants based on income and household size:

Students of families making less than 175% and single parents making less than 225% of the federal poverty level will 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. The SAI will be used to determined Pell awards between the maximum and minimum amounts.

  • Larger Income Protection Allowances (IPA):

The IPA covers a family's basic living expenses and is excluded from SAI calculations. 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 approximately $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. As this inclusion continues to be debated in Congress, it will be required reporting for appropriate families on the 2024-25 FAFSA and will be part of calculating the SAI.