Officials from the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) did not commit to an Oct. 1, 2023, launch date for the 2024-25 FAFSA during a session on FAFSA simplification Tuesday morning as part of NASFAA’s ongoing Leadership & Legislative Conference & Expo, and instead reiterated that the FAFSA will be launched by Jan. 1, 2024, as is required by law. FSA also announced that aid offices will not be able to package above the cost of attendance if a student has a negative Student Aid Index (SAI).
Melanie Storey, the deputy director of policy implementation and oversight at FSA, said the Department of Education (ED) is fully committed to implementing the redesigned 2024-25 FAFSA, which is changing significantly due to the FAFSA Simplification Act. But at this point in FSA’s development cycle, the office is not committing to the traditional launch date of October 1. Storey noted the implementation impacts about 20 FSA systems, including five brand new ones, which means a lot of work around integration and operations.
“We are working closely with you all, with our partners, and with NASFAA on getting as close to a launch date and being able to get as specific as we can on that,” Storey said. “But I know there's been a lot of … angst around the fact that we have not affirmatively said October 1. And this is exactly why. We are working aggressively toward that development date, but we want to be confident that we deliver a stable and secure FAFSA to you, and we want to do it in a way that is predictable with everything that we can share with you. Because we know we don't implement this alone.”
NASFAA President and CEO Justin Draeger asked Storey during the session when ED will communicate with financial aid offices when a launch date is set.
“My hope is that we will tell you as soon as we have it,” Storey said. “I would love to tell you today if I knew what it was. My expectation is that [the date will be announced] this spring, and I know it’s terrible when we talk in seasons.”
NASFAA previously sent a letter to ED and the Domestic Policy Council seeking assurance if the 2024-25 FAFSA will be live on October 1, and if not, to confirm when the 2024-25 FAFSA will be released. During Monday’s opening session of the leadership conference, many members expressed stress over the launch date of the new FAFSA, as some institutions issue aid offers before January 1 based on the FAFSA.
During Tuesday’s session, a NASFAA member asked Storey if FSA was planning on increasing resources or staffing to help with the implementation of the new FAFSA. Storey said FSA has been intending to increase staffing and that the office is aware that the new FAFSA will mean an increase in questions from aid offices and demand from the office’s customer service lines.
“We are planning for that, much like we did for debt relief and the launch of the 2023-24 FAFSA,” Storey said. “We did everything we could to try to make sure that we had as many resources as we had, whether they were FSA employees or our contractors. It is something we are actively planning and monitoring.”
In response to another NASFAA member question, Storey added that FSA plans to communicate with students and families about the FAFSA launch timeline.
“We will certainly do public messaging to students and families,” Storey said. “We're also talking to the state grant agencies and others about the alignment of priority dates and other challenges that a change in our launch schedule could trigger, so that we can coordinate those communications.”
Another point of discussion during the FSA update session was around the Student Aid Index (SAI). A question on the mind of many financial aid professionals was whether they would be able to package above the cost of attendance if a student has a negative SAI. Storey said that offices won’t be able to do so and that FSA will release guidance on this topic soon.
FSA also spoke about changes to the FAFSA process, including that all “contributors” (students, parents, spouses) to a FAFSA will have to obtain an FSA ID to complete the application, except in cases of a joint tax return. Misty Parkinson, director of the product management group at ED, said that FSA is working on a solution for every “contributor” to be able to obtain an FSA ID, even if they don’t have a Social Security Number.
In beta screenshots shared during the presentation, FSA illustrated that dependent students completing a FAFSA will have the ability to “invite” their parent/guardian to create a FSA ID and complete their section of the FAFSA by providing the application with their parent’s Social Security Number, date of birth, and email address. The student’s studentaid.gov log-in page will show the status of each section's completion. After all contributors have completed their respective sections, the FAFSA can be submitted.
The FAFSA will also now contain a “parent wizard” aimed at helping dependent students filing a FAFSA to identify who is the correct person they should be inviting to complete the parent/guardian financial section. The “wizard” consists of a series of questions with skip logic built in to quickly identify the student’s parent or guardian for FAFSA filing purposes.
FSA shared a timeline of upcoming resources and training that will be made available as the 2024-25 FAFSA launch date approaches, including a series of virtual training sessions, including two dedicated live Q&A sessions scheduled for June and July.
Be sure to keep up with NASFAA's social media channels throughout the week for updates and photos from the conference, and utilize the hashtag #NASFAALeads23 to keep up with what members are talking about!
Publication Date: 2/7/2023