Changes to FAFSA creating delays for families

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – If you have a child in college or heading there, there are some major changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that you need to know about. 

Congress mandated the FASFA be simplified for families, but the streamlining has not come without its challenges.

Typically, the FAFSA becomes available for families to fill out on October 1st but this year’s new form went live on Dec. 30, 2023 and in the days since, many families have reported issues with the website crashing or glitching. 

The FAFSA is now just 36 questions compared to the previous 108. Tax information will be automatically imputed by the IRS. The U.S. Department of Education anticipates the new FAFSA will help 610,000 more students receive federal Pell Grants for the first time and allow 1.5 million more students to get the maximum Pell Grant. 

The U.S. Department of Education says it began a soft-launch of the new FAFSA in an effort to monitor the site’s performance and make updates as needed. That’s why the site has been only partially accessible for days. 

“These are the biggest sweeping changes that the financial aid community has seen in over 40 years,” says Toby Dye, the director of financial aid at Nazareth University. 

The slow rollout is putting colleges and universities behind schedule when it comes to offering students acceptance and financial aid packages.

“If you are looking to be a freshman in the fall, and you are looking at multiple colleges, it is going to tighten that timetable for you because now colleges aren’t going to get that info until late January (from the federal government) which is going to delay financial aid offers,” Dye explains. 

There are also some changes that may negatively impact students and families.

“That is going to be a shift and it’s going to make middle to high income families a little bit less protected,” Dye says. 

Small business and farm owners will have to provide more income information and if you’ve got more than one kid in college at the same time.

“There’s no longer a discount for multiple children in college and that’s going to hit families hard. It may eliminate Pell Grant eligibility for families and also eliminate or reduce college grants for families,” Dye says.

For students with divorced parents, the parent who fills out the FAFSA is now the parent who provides the most financial support for the student. 

For now, schools are doing their best to give students and prospective students an idea of all the other grants and loans that may be available to them while the government works out the kinks.

“We could at least let our students know, hey, if you apply here and your high school GPA is within this range, or even transfer students, at least we can let you know up front what your merit scholarships are going to look like for you,” Dye explains. 

To fill out a FAFSA application, click here. For help with FAFSA, head here.