By: Reyna Gobel
The Federal Department of Education is streamlining the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) from over 100 questions to less than 40. Yay! The goal is so more families fill out the often overwhelming first form required by schools to receive financial aid.
The problem? One of the questions it cuts out benefits families with multiple children in college. If you have two or more children in college – or are currently or may get divorced from your current or future college student’s other parent, here’s what you need to know based on our interview with Robert Falcon, College Funding Solutions founder.
Why is this change happening?
Legislators have wanted to simplify the FAFSA for years because of the 30 percent of borrowers who don’t file their FAFSA each year, according to the How America Pays for College Survey by Sallie Mae No matter what your income level, not filing the FAFSA can prevent your student from receiving financial aid. Thus, congress introduced and passed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Simplification Act.
When does the FAFSA change take place?
The FAFSA changes are for the 2024-2025 school year, the year when today’s high school seniors will be in their junior year of college.
How does the new calculation for multiple students work?
Right now, the number provided to colleges that determines the aid families can technically contribute is called the EFC. If families have multiple students the EFC is divided by the number of students in college for that year. For instance, let’s say a family will have three students in college that will start school in 2022, 2024, and 2026. If each takes 4 years, student one would be in college from 2022 to 2026, #2 from 2024 to 2028, and #3 from 2026 to 2030. Their parents would have two students in college from 2024 to 2028. Let’s say the average EFC was $40,000 each year. Under current rules it would be divided in half to $20,000. Now, it will stay $40,000 per student, even if they had 10 students in school.
Why prepare for the FAFSA change now?
“ If the high school Class of 2022 families do not plan for these changes today, their kids could face significant reductions in financial aid, increased parental and student loan debt, gap years, and a possible transfer to a more affordable college.
How do the FAFSA changes affect divorced parents?
Previously, FAFSA would financially go by the parent who they lived with the most throughout the year. Now, it’s the parent that makes more, custodial or not. This can hurt families where divorce agreements have even split agreements because now the family may pay more, which can be unfair to the parent earning less.
For instance, let’s say at the same school a student qualifies for $20,000 out of a $30,000 cost of attendance paid for in grants and scholarships based on the income of the custodial parent. Based on the income of the greater income parent, they’d get $10,000 less. If parents are splitting the actual cost, they’d each pay $5,000 more than previously expected.
Are there any benefits to the FAFSA changes?
The biggest benefit is more families will fill it out as a shorter form is less intimidating. Also, more families are expected to get federal Pell Grants with potentially larger amounts per student. This helps mainly lower earning families.
Do affected families have any recourse?
Some schools, mainly private, use the CSS Profile in addition to the FAFSA. CSS Profile schools gather much more information and consider the family’s overall financial picture. These are also school that often award more financial aid. Families should start with tools lile Net Price Calculators on sites but also seek the help of finnacial aid offices, high school counselors, and financial aid professionals when determining how much aid they’ll receive over the next four years.
This is a solemn reminder that paying for college isn’t about making a one-year decision. Always remember it doesn;t matter if a school is expensive one year and unknown or without first-year scholarship in future years.