Nothing is more appealing to soon-to-be/current college students and their parents than free money. However, it’s mind-boggling that so many families fail to fill out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) form each year.
The cost of college can be stifling to most families, so you certainly don’t want to miss out on this opportunity. Each year, the FAFSA opens on October 1 and you’ll want to file as close as possible to the start date to improve your chances of qualifying for the most grant, scholarship and work-study aid. Plus, more families than ever may request — and qualify for — aid this year due to financial impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.
With that being said, the process of filling out the FAFSA form continues to evolve, as it does each year. You need to make sure you’re in the know so that you don’t leave money on the table, including what to do if your work situation changed in 2020 due to COVID-19 (remember, the 2022-2023 FAFSA will use 2020 tax information). Below are the changes and updates made to the 2022-23 FAFSA form and process along with some tips for filling it out.
Changes To The 2022-23 FAFSA
Passed in December 2020, the FAFSA Simplification Act represents a significant overhaul of federal student aid, including the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form, need analysis, and many policies and procedures for schools. Unfortunately, the Department of Education has delayed the implementation of some changes until the 2024-2025 aid year. Here, we outline some changes you’ll see on this year’s form as well as other updates on deck for future FAFSAs.
There were some updates to expected family contribution allowances and calculations, including the following:
- The typical family will see their Income Protection Allowance increased by about $300, which in turn will decrease their expected family contribution. For example, a family of four with one dependent child in college has $30,190 shielded from expected family contribution calculations.
- The Allowance for Student Wages before those earnings impact the expected family contribution was also increased from $6,970 to $7,040. This works out to about 10 hours per week during the school year and 20 hours per week during the summer at an average hourly wage of about $11.00.
According to the experts at CollegeAidPro.com, the major changes that made their way onto the 2022-2023 form include the following:
- Removing the requirement for male students to register with Selective Service.
- Removing the suspension of eligibility for Title IV aid for drug-related convictions while receiving Title IV Aid.
- Repealing the 150% Subsidized Loan Limit (effective July 1st, 2021).
And remember, the following changes went into effect in 2019 and should continue to aid your ability to navigate and use the platform:
- The fafsa.gov website has been redesigned so that the site pages will fit the screen size and shape of any device, including desktop or laptop computers and mobile devices.
- Students and parents can complete the 2022–23 FAFSA form using the myStudentAid app. Students and parents may download the myStudentAid app.
- The online FAFSA form provides faster feedback. For example, students now receive error notifications as they complete the form’s fields rather than via future notifications.
Perhaps the biggest news, however, are the upcoming changes that have been delayed until 2024-2025, most notably the reduction of the FAFSA from 10 pages and over 100 questions down to 3 pages and only 35 questions. And, critically for many of our clients, the delay also means that families with multiple children in college will continue to receive their EFC deduction for two more years. Starting with the 2024-2025 aid year, this deduction will be eliminated.
Have All The Right Documents Ready
To complete the FAFSA Form, you will need your:
- Social Security Number
- Alien Registration Number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
- Most recent federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned. (Note: You may be able to transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.)
- Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
- Records of untaxed income (if applicable)
- FSA ID to sign electronically. To create one, go to Studentaid.gov.
- If you are a dependent student, then you will also need most of the above information for your parent(s).
What About Impacts from COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted families and universities in a variety of ways. First, you should note that due to the current situation, many Offices of Financial Aid still cannot provide in-person services. Services such as financial aid appointments and document submission will still be available but often not in-person. You should plan your financial aid timelines accordingly.
Second, what if your financial situation has dramatically changed since the 2020 tax returns that you’re using for the 2022-2023 FAFSA? According to the College Financial Lady, a leading online expert on college financial aid processes, you have two options:
1. Any parent who has lost their job should check the “Dislocated Worker” box.
2. Since the FAFSA does not have an open-ended field to describe changes in family circumstances, you will probably have to endure the Professional Judgement (PJ) process after receiving acceptances.
Unfortunately, the Department of Education says that families must fill out the FAFSA “as is” and then appeal their award: You must complete the FAFSA questions as instructed on the application and then contact the school you plan to attend to discuss how your current financial situation has changed.
Tips For Filling Out The FAFSA Form
Not Sure If You’re Eligible? Fill It Out Anyway
A common financial aid myth is that students with parents that have high-paying jobs will not be eligible for FAFSA – wrong! Everyone should fill out a form, regardless of your financial situation. FAFSA is not just the application for federal grants but it is also necessary for low-interest student loans, work-study programs, as well as scholarships and grants from schools, states, and private organizations.
You should complete the form so you don’t miss out on possibly thousands of dollars to help pay for your child’s college. Don’t fall for these myths about financial aid.
Also, you may not need financial aid now, but anything could happen. If you do need aid in the future, the process will be much easier if you’ve already filled out the form.
Use the FAFSA4caster tool to see your estimated eligibility.
Fill Out The Form ASAP
The new FAFSA form will be made available October 1, 2021, on fafsa.ed.gov. In 2019, the date was moved up from the previous date of January 1. The earlier submission gives you more time to complete the FAFSA before college deadlines. This means you’ll have more time to apply for other financial aid and to compare schools to ensure you’re making the right choice.
Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool
Along with earlier application dates, you can now use previous tax information from two years ago, That means you no longer need to estimate – speeding up the process and eliminating errors.
Learn more about how the IRS Data Retrieval Tool works.
Renew Your FAFSA Every Year Of College
Another financial aid myth is that after a student’s first year, they no longer need to worry about filling out FAFSA – wrong, again!
The amount of federal aid your child qualifies for in one year does not carry over every year. Also, changes in your family’s financial situation could impact the amount of financial aid your child qualifies for in future school years.
To Sum Things Up
Affording college can be a challenge for any family regardless of their situation, but it’s not impossible. By utilizing the tips above and additional resources such as other forms of financial aid and College Savings Plans, affording college can be more manageable than you think.
In addition to these tips, you can also learn more about the 7 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make When Saving For College. And be sure to check out our Family and Finances blog series where we provide financial insights for families.
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