2024 FAFSA: Here’s What’s Changed In This Year’s Student Aid Application

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The long awaited, shortened version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid released to students seeking financial assistance for higher education over New Year’s weekend, but the Department of Education warns there have been “some minor issues” with the launch of the new version and some students could get less help than ever before.

The FAFSA form, which will allow students to request financial help for the 2024-25 academic year, was released to students in a “soft launch” over the weekend—three months later than its usual date of Oct. 1.

The form includes only 36 questions—significantly less than the 108 of years past—and is meant to help the Department of Education overhaul its lending process and change the formulas by which the amount of aid given per student is determined.

Major changes include that the department will no longer include a sibling discount—families won’t automatically get additional aid if more than one child is in college—and wealthier or middle-income families won’t be eligible for as much assistance due to a change in calculating how much a family can afford to pay.

The changes were mandated by Congress back in 2020 and though they are just now being implemented, this year’s FAFSA will still rely on consumer price index figures from years ago that don’t account for recent inflation—which could mean students “will get less financial aid than they deserve,” one expert told CNBC.

More lower and moderate-income families should be eligible for Pell grants than ever before—which don’t have to be repaid—and families who can’t afford to contribute to their child’s higher education shouldn’t see major changes in eligibility.

Other noteworthy adjustments this year include: FAFSA won’t link to state aid applications, meaning students in a handful of states will have to fill out multiple forms to apply for both federal and state aid, and it could take up for three days for students and parents to create their Federal Student Aid ID, which is needed to log into the FAFSA website.

The federal deadline to complete the FAFSA is June 30, 2025, though some states have earlier deadlines.

“Leading up to and as part of the soft launch, we have identified some minor issues,” the Department of Education said in a statement on Sunday, Dec. 31. “We are aware of these issues and are working to resolve them.”

The FAFSA form available Jan. 1 is part of the DOE’s “soft launch” of the new application and users may see the site go down in the coming weeks as the agency conducts maintenance or fixes issues. The department warned the form may not always be accessible but that any information submitted during the soft launch will be saved and students will have “plenty of time to complete the FAFSA form.” Even those who submit the form in early January will not have the information sent to schools until later in the month.

A stimulus bill passed by Congress in December of 2020 included a number of provisions for higher-education equity, including restoring prisoners’ ability to receive Pell grants and simplifying the previously arduous FAFSA process, which has been partly blamed for a drop in students (particularly from low income families) applying for federal financial assistance. Lawmakers said the changes would make it easier to apply for aid, route more aid to part-time students and community colleges and support institutions that historically serve minorities.

$112 billion. That’s how much the office of Federal Student Aid provides in grant, work-study and loans each year.

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