The turbulence of COVID during 2020 has been enough for all of us, but did COVID make FAFSA easier? A pandemic makes filing for FAFSA easier? Yes! We are most excited to hear about the simplification of the process itself. According to NerdWallet, “the high school graduating class of 2017 left $2.6 billion in grants on the table by failing to submit enough applications.” That’s A LOT of money not being used to educate our youth just because of crazy applications! So yes, let’s find the small silver linings of 2020 and rejoice that COVID initiated some changes for the better. Jeff Levy, an IEC at Big J Educational Consulting, summed up the biggest changes FAFSA will see:

    • Changes will be effective starting July 1, 2023 for the 2023-2024 school year. The first redesigned FAFSA form will be available for high school seniors on October 1, 2022 for those students currently in 10th grade.
    • The number of questions will be reduced from 108 to 36.
      The term Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will be scrapped. It will be replaced by Student Aid Index (SAI). This is a positive change since many parents are currently misled into thinking their EFC is what they will have to pay when often it is significantly less.
    • If a dependent student’s parents are divorced or separated and not remarried, the parent who provides more financial support to the student will be responsible for completing the FAFSA. “The parent you lived with more during the past 12 months” will be scrapped as the determining factor for which parent should complete the FAFSA. This closes an enormous loophole divorced or separated parents were able to exploit.
    • Colleges will be required to disclose all elements of the cost of attendance on their website whenever it lists tuition and fees. This is a very positive change as some colleges continue to bury their total cost.
    • Income Protection Allowance will be increased, allowing a greater amount of income to be sheltered from the financial aid formula.
    • Asset Protection Allowance, which has steadily declined over the past decade, will remain unchanged and will probably disappear completely in a few years.
    • The FAFSA will no longer divide the family assessment by the number of family members in college. This change will significantly reduce the amount of financial aid available for multiple family members enrolled at the same time, a harsh and regressive change from the current formula.
    • The FAFSA will include a question about the applicant’s race or ethnicity.
    • Charging a fee to complete the FAFSA will be prohibited.
    • Male applicants will no longer be required to have registered with Selective Service.
    • Applicants convicted of the sale or possession of a controlled substance will no longer be ineligible for federal student aid.
    • Several changes to Professional Judgment and special circumstances, including prohibiting financial aid administrators from denying all financial aid appeals.

For a more in-depth look at the information above, check out the following link for more details –> Pandemic Relief Package Simplifies FAFSA

Is it perfect? No. But it is a step in the right direction. Let’s take advantage of the changes COVID has made to FAFSA and walk away from 2020 knowing that our future high school grads have options, better yet, opportunities.

The college planning process is stressful enough and Discover Pathwaze is happy to see that part of it just got a little easier.