FAFSA Simplification

FAFSA Simplification

Simplifying the financial aid application process: the FAFSA Simplification Act is an initiative by the United States Department of Education to make applying for federal student aid easier for students. 

This is the first major redesign of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process in over 40 years. It represents a significant overhaul of federal student aid, including the FAFSA form, need analysis, storage of federal student aid application data, and many policies and procedures for schools that participate in the Title IV programs. 

The process for the California Dream Act Application (CADAA) includes some of the changes from the new FAFSA, both of which will be implemented for the 2024–2025 award year. All students must complete either the FAFSA or CADAA to be considered for student aid.

We recommend you watch the Department of Education's (ED) playlist of short helpful YouTube videos explaining what you need to know. We also encourage you to read these helpful tips for preparing to fill out your FAFSA: Pro Tips for the 2024–25 FAFSA® Form 

2024-2025 FAFSA Deadlines

For Cal Grant consideration, the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) has announced April 2nd as the priority filing deadline for 2024-2025. 

2024-2025 FAFSA Timeline

In a typical year, the FAFSA is available to students on October 1st, with data being sent to schools shortly thereafter. This year, the FAFSA was released to students at the very end of December. There was a soft launch, with limited availability for the first week. The FAFSA is now broadly available, but students will not be able to submit any corrections until mid-March. Additionally, ED had originally planned to send FAFSA application results to schools in late-January but has since revised this timeline and is currently expecting to send results to schools by mid-March.
FAFSA Availability and timeline.  

2024-2025 FAFSA Issues

FAFSA Issue Alerts - Currently, some students (predominantly students with mixed-status families) are having substantial difficulties filing a FAFSA. Addressing this is a priority for ED.

2024-2025 Financial Aid Award Letters

Award Letters for Continuing and Newly Enrolled Students

San Diego Mesa College typically makes official Award Letters available to students in mid-Summer. Currently we do not anticipate any change to this timeline. Continuing students should also submit their FAFSA by the April 2nd priority filing deadline, if possible. There are significant changes to the underlying eligibility calculations by the FAFSA this year that could affect a continuing student’s eligibility.

FAFSA Simplication Benefits

Students and families will see a different measure of their ability to pay for college and experience a change in the methodology used to determine aid. The benefits of FAFSA simplification include: 

  • A more streamlined application process 
  • Expanded eligibility for federal student aid 
  • Expanded eligibility for the Federal Pell Grant 
  • Reduced barriers for certain student populations 
  • A better user experience for the FAFSA form 
  • Enhanced data sharing with IRS to simplify the applicant’s experience

Changes to the FAFSA

  • The number of questions will be reduced, and the application will maximize the use of previously collected data. 
  • Students will be able to list up to 20 schools on their FAFSA via the online application. 
  • The Student Aid Index (SAI) will replace the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). 
  • The Cost of Attendance (COA) will be the starting point for calculating the SAI. COA includes direct costs (charges for which Mesa College bills you directly) and estimated indirect costs (living expenses) to fund educational expenses for a year. 
  • Foster, homeless, and unaccompanied youth—as well as applicants who cannot provide parental information—will be able to complete the form with a provisional independent student determination and receive a calculated SAI. 
  • Anyone asked to provide information on the aid application—student, spouse, student’s parent(s) and/or stepparents(s)—is called a “contributor” to the application. 
  • Students, spouses, parents, and stepparents (contributors) will now need to provide their consent to provide their Federal Tax Information (FTI) in the new Consent to Retrieve and Disclose Federal Tax Information section of the FAFSA for federal student aid eligibility. 
  • A direct data share with the IRS will replace what is currently known as the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). 
  • If any contributor to the FAFSA form does not provide consent, submission of the form will still be allowed. However, a Student Aid Index (SAI) will not be calculated. 
  • The Custodial Parent on your FAFSA will be the parent(s) who provided you with more financial support, instead of the parent(s) with whom you lived more during the past 12 months. 
  • There will be two-step verification and all FAFSA contributors must have an FSA ID to log into the online form. There will be a new process to get an FSA ID for parents and spouses without a Social Security number. 
  • Applicants will be asked to report their sex, race, and ethnicity on the FAFSA itself, but students will be offered a choice of “Prefer Not to Answer.” Schools and state agencies won’t see responses to these questions on the FAFSA. 
  • Resources for completing the FAFSA form will be expanded to the 11 most common languages spoken in the United States. 

Changes to Calculating Your Aid Eligibility

Students and families will see a different measure of their ability to pay for college, and they will experience a change in the methodology used to determine aid. 

  • The formula for calculating the Student Aid Index (SAI) is: COA – SAI = financial need. 
  • The new need-analysis formula: 
    • Removes the number of family members in college from the calculation
    • Allows a minimum SAI of -$1,500
    • Implements separate eligibility determination criteria for Federal Pell Grants based on federal poverty levels and family size  
  • Child support received will be included in assets and not as untaxed income. 
  • Families who own a small business/farm that also serves as primary residence will now have assets of that business/farm considered in their need-analysis calculation. 

FAFSA Simplification FAQ

For answers to commonly asked questions regarding FAFSA Simplification, review the FAFSA Simplication FAQ or contact the Financial Aid Office.