By Kevin Towns, Senior Director of Financial Aid
New and returning college students for the 2024-25 academic year would typically have had access to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) beginning on October 1. However, the U.S. Department of Education has been conducting the largest overhaul of the college financial aid process in more than 40 years. As a result, the FAFSA will not be available until sometime in December 2023.
Filing the FAFSA is required to be considered for financial aid — such as grants, federal work-study and loans — to help cover higher education expenses. Why the long-awaited change?
The FAFSA Simplification Act was signed into law in 2021 to make the form shorter and easier to complete as well as to expand access to the Federal Pell Grant. The law affects every state that uses FAFSA data to award state grant aid and every school that participates in federal student aid programs.
What does this mean for current and prospective college students?
In my role at North Central College, I have been telling families that it’s imperative they read communication from every institution they’re considering. Each school’s timeline may be different this year. Also, I tell them to be sure to complete the FAFSA this year. Even if you have not qualified for financial aid in the past, you may qualify for financial aid in 2024-25 due to the form changing and other changes in how eligibility for need-based aid is calculated.
- The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) calculation will be replaced by a “Student Aid Index” (SAI) to better align with how the federal government and states determine need-based eligibility.
- The number of people in college in one household will no longer be a factor on the form in calculating eligibility for financial aid.
- The new process will automatically pull information directly from your income tax return after a student and each parent gives consent for the data exchange.
- Students will be able to list 20 institutions to receive their FAFSA – up from 10 schools previously.
Stay alert to when the FAFSA becomes available. Some, but not all, institutions make financial aid available on a first-come, first-served based. Other schools, such as North Central, will not penalize you for filing later. And regardless of FAFSA data, 100 percent of North Central students receive financial assistance, whether in the form of need-based aid, first-year scholarships, or transfer scholarships.
This is a transition year for the FAFSA. It’s expected that the opening date will return to Oct. 1 next year. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact North Central if you have questions or concerns at www.northcentralcollege.edu/admissions.