Federal Student Aid (FSA) on Wednesday announced that the 2024-25 FAFSA will go live by December 31, 2023, meeting the statutory requirement that the form must be available by January 1.
Along with the release date, FSA announced in its FAFSA road map that, while the application itself will be live, it will not begin processing FAFSA forms submitted online until January 2024. Institutions will begin receiving Institutional Student Information Records (ISIRs) by the end of January 2024. In a stakeholder call on Wednesday, FSA clarified that verification selection and database matches won’t start until ISIRs begin to be delivered.
FSA clarified in the call that once a student completes the online FAFSA, they will get a confirmation page that includes their estimated Student Aid Index (SAI) and Federal Pell Grant eligibility, along with a follow-up email. It will also include messaging about what to expect next, for which ED is still crafting language.
FSA will begin processing paper FAFSAs in February 2024. Students will be able to make corrections once ISIRs are processed, while institutions will not be able to submit corrections until February, FSA states.
NASFAA President and CEO Justin Draeger said in a statement that while the financial aid community is pleased to see ED fulfill its commitment to deliver a FAFSA by January 1, there are still concerns ahead.
“[W]hile it’s true that ED may have met the letter of the law by opening the FAFSA by December 31, any significant delays in delivering applicant data to schools would fall short of the spirit of the law, leaving the most vulnerable student populations in limbo as they wait for the financial aid information they need to make vital college-going decisions,” Draeger said. “We urge and know our federal partners are doing all they can to provide applicant data to institutions as quickly as possible, and to clearly communicate with schools as soon as updates are available.”
In the electronic announcement, FSA said that its Application Programming Interface (API) service will not be available for the entirety of the 2024-25 award year. It plans to resume the service in the 2025-26 cycle. Seven states — New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Mississippi, Iowa, Minnesota, and New Jersey — currently participate in the API, which allows students who have submitted a FAFSA online to electronically transfer data they provided on their application to their state financial aid agencies. ED committed in Wednesday’s call to working with those states.
FSA also announced that with the new 2024-25 FAFSA, about 610,000 more students from low-income backgrounds will receive federal Pell Grants and 1.5 million more students will have access to the maximum Pell Grant award. The Department of Education (ED) released a state-by-state breakdown of those numbers.
The Department of Education also shared that some students may be able to answer as few as 18 questions on the new, streamlined FAFSA, down from more than 100 currently. And the department will also be implementing a new “Who’s My FAFSA Parent?” wizard that will help students navigate the process.
“The changes to the FAFSA form represent the most ambitious and significant redesign of the processes to apply for federal student aid and the formulas used to determine aid eligibility since the Common Financial Aid Form — the FAFSA form’s predecessor — was introduced in the Reagan era,” FSA wrote in an electronic announcement.
While typically the FAFSA has been released on October 1, this year’s delay is due to a significant overhaul of the FAFSA form and processing system. FAFSA simplification brings a number of changes to the FAFSA process, including implementation of the new SAI calculation, direct taxpayer data sharing with the IRS, and a shortened form for students and their families to submit.
This March, Federal Student Aid (FSA) released a road map outlining delivery dates for FAFSA resources and confirmed that the 2024-25 FAFSA will be released sometime in December this year.
Since then, aid offices across the country have expressed concerns about the launch date of the new FAFSA, along with concerns about staff burnout, staffing shortages, and confusion about the intricacies of the FAFSA process, such as the changes to who is considered the parent of record, the new consent process for the IRS direct data exchange, and what happens in cases where IRS data can’t be used. In its updated 2024-25 FAFSA road map, FSA states that it will host monthly Q&A webinars to answer questions for state and institutional partners between January and March 2024.
Draeger states that Wednesday’s announcement means that aid offices cannot begin reviewing financial aid applications, modeling student eligibility, and packaging and communicating financial aid offers until applicant data is provided to them. He urged ED to partner with the financial aid community to ensure a smooth implementation.
“Financial aid professionals will work to shield students from the adverse effects of any truncated timelines,” Draeger said. “In addition to working as quickly as possible to deliver a completed FAFSA process, the Department can partner in this effort by giving students realistic timelines and top-notch customer service, and giving schools the space and resources they need to focus solely on students for the next several months.”
NASFAA is asking ED to support students, financial aid offices, and other stakeholders in several ways, including:
Communicating directly with applicants immediately upon FAFSA submission with next steps and a realistic expected timeline
Increasing availability of customer support to students and financial aid offices through existing and adequately staffed help centers
Ensuring a low verification selection rate for student applicants, relieving burden and saving time for students, families, and institutions
Permitting schools to accept electronic copies of verification materials, including electronic signatures
Pausing standard program reviews and other non-urgent oversight activities through peak processing season, except in instances of suspected fraud or known abuse
Without delaying any of the actual implementation, giving schools more time to prepare and provide gainful employment and financial value transparency data
Publication Date: 11/15/2023