After days of learning, networking, and professional development, officials from the Department of Education (ED) closed the NASFAA 2023 National Conference with updates on the new Student Aid Index (SAI), which is replacing expected family contribution (EFC) beginning with the 2024-25 FAFSA, and answered questions from attendees.
Dennis Kramer, director of the policy research and analysis group at ED, led the presentation and explained the key changes to the federal methodology formula and Pell Grant eligibility determination from the FAFSA Simplification Act. Those include removing the number of family members in college from the calculation, allowing a minimum SAI of -1,500, and a new eligibility determination criteria for federal Pell Grants based on federal poverty guidelines, among others. Kramer said these updates will expand access to the federal Pell Grant and streamline the FAFSA process.
"It's a new approach to thinking about how we deliver aid and Pell Grants to our students," Kramer said. "It really is about streamlining the FAFSA. Part of this legislation is about making a better experience for students."
Kramer went through high-level changes under FAFSA simplification and how they'll impact SAI. He said the basic EFC and SAI formulas are similar, but the SAI formula no longer includes number in college. Additionally, the SAI formula reduces the number of items considered in the income components of the formula, and there's a reduction in allowances against income in the formula.
Other key changes include asset components, such as applicants being asked to report the net worth of all businesses, regardless of the size of the business, and family farms. Additionally, Pell grant eligibility for less than full-time enrollment will be prorated based on the student’s exact enrollment intensity instead of by categorization as three-quarter time, half-time, and less-than-half-time. Registered attendees can read through Kramer's complete presentation as part of the session handout.
Kramer also touched on how to determine automatic maximum and minimum Pell Grant eligibility for dependent and independent students and the three different SAI formulas. He pointed to several resources, including the 2024-25 Draft SAI and Pell Grant Eligibility Guide. After Kramer's presentation, attendees had the opportunity to pose questions to Kramer and other ED officials in attendance.
A key question asked at the NASFAA National Conference was how child support payments would factor into determining which parent provided the most financial support to the applicant, which is the new method for determining the custodial parent for FAFSA completion purposes.. An attendee asked which parent would be considered to be providing the most support — the parent providing the child support, or the parent receiving the child support. Melanie Storey, director of policy, implementation, and oversight at ED, said that ED is working on a definite answer with different examples on child support, and this question will be answered in a Federal Student Aid (FSA) webinar on July 13.
“We want to give you the absolute, official right answer and I don't want to do that on the fly up here in case I have to correct it,” Storey said. “What I will commit to you is that we have another Q&A webinar on July 13. We are taking several questions from this [conference] back.”
Another topic of concern was around the required authenticated FSA ID for students and contributors to complete the FAFSA and how it could impact students with undocumented parents. An attendee asked the group how ED could alleviate fears from those students and their families in order to complete the FAFSA.
"I understand that's going to cause some challenges," Storey said. "There are provisions in FAFSA simplification for students who can't access their parents' information. And so that will be at the discretion of administrators to work with those students, who for whatever reason, cannot access or cannot get access to that information, and we expect that that will happen."
Storey also shared that communication with students and families about FAFSA simplification will begin in July.
NASFAA’s 2022-23 National Chair Brad Barnett asked the ED representatives present if they could provide any more information about what would be included in a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) with guidance on FAFSA simplification implementation for the 2024-25 aid year, which ED officials announced on Saturday would be coming soon. Kerri Moseley-Hobbs, policy specialist at ED, said the DCL will be a high-level summary about 2024-25 implementation, with a lot of the information linked out to other resources and will cover topics discussed in FSA webinars and conferences.
Additionally at the closing session, Barnett passed the gavel to NASFAA's 2023-24 National Chair Helen Faith. During his speech, Barnett thanked NASFAA members for their support this past year.
"It's difficult to put into words how special this year has been for me," Barnett said. "I started with the goal of just wanting to help. As we used to pray with the boys when they were small, wake up every day and just have the ability to make a positive difference in at least one person's life. What I never, ever, imagined were the blessings that I was going to receive from all of you in response to doing this."
Read our news coverage on different sessions offered at the NASFAA 2023 National Conference and join us next year for our national conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Publication Date: 7/2/2023