Higher education headlines have recently been filled with news of the changes coming to the 2024-25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid. While these changes should ultimately simplify the filing process, the rollout of the new FAFSA is expected to have several implications for students and their families. Jennifer Cosens, Transylvania’s director of financial aid, answers several common questions about the FAFSA changes to help incoming and returning students know what to expect this year.
How will students and their families be impacted by the delayed FAFSA launch this year?
Current Transylvania students and their families should only be minimally impacted by the delay itself. They should plan to complete their 2024-25 FAFSA sometime in January or February 2024, which is several months later than they’ve become accustomed to (editor’s note: In recent years, the FAFSA has opened in October).
Prospective students and their families will be more affected. The delayed launch (from the U.S. Department of Education) will also delay financial aid offers for these students and make it challenging to make early college decisions. We don’t know the exact launch date yet, but we recommend families wait a week or two after the launch — until about mid-January — to complete the 2024-25 FAFSA, as we expect the rollout may be a bit bumpy.
In the meantime, we recommend students take advantage of our Net Price Calculator to get an idea of what their financial aid offer might look like when it does arrive. All colleges should have a net price calculator on their website, and these may be useful for making approximate comparisons. Keep in mind though, that waiting to receive your personalized and official offer before making a final decision would be wise.
What are the biggest differences between the old and new version of the FAFSA?
Beyond this year’s delayed launch date, students and parents should expect to answer fewer questions than they did on the old version of the FAFSA. Ideally, nearly all required financial information will come directly from the IRS.
The 2024-25 FAFSA introduces the concept of information “contributors” to the FAFSA. These are individuals who must each add their information to the FAFSA separately. In many cases, there will be two contributors to the FAFSA — the student and a parent. In cases where the student’s parents are married but filed separate tax returns (not typical), the student and both parents may be required to each separately contribute their financial information to the FAFSA. A student or parent can initiate the student’s FAFSA and then invite the other to contribute their information by providing the other individual’s key identifiers.
The change to the FAFSA may affect which parent’s information should be provided on the FAFSA in cases of divorce or separation. In the past, this has primarily been determined by which of their parents the student lived with the most. Beginning with the 2024-25 FAFSA, this will now be decided by which parent provides the most financial support for the student. Be sure to read the instructions carefully if this applies to you.
In addition to these changes, families should now expect to report family business and farm net worth that has not been required to be reported in the past. Also, the number of family members attending college will no longer factor into the need analysis formula. These changes may reduce some students’ eligibility for need-based financial aid.
When can families expect to receive their financial aid offers?
We expect to begin receiving students’ FAFSA data in late January or early February, and hope to begin getting the first of our financial aid offers out to admitted students by mid-March.
We send financial aid offers to our students via U.S. postal mail but rely on email to communicate with you about any missing information we may need from you. Please be sure to monitor the email account you provided on your application for admission in case we need to follow up for more information to be able to prepare your financial aid offer letter.
Will the delay in FAFSA opening impact Transylvania’s ability to award merit-based aid?
Not at all. Merit-based scholarships provide the foundation for our financial aid offers, and any need-based aid for which the student is eligible follows. Merit-based scholarships and programs such as our Premier and Fine Arts scholarship programs will move forward as normal.
How will the updated FAFSA benefit students?
The goal is simplification! Students and parents should be required to answer fewer questions, and a much larger portion of the financial information should come directly from the IRS. We also think more financially needy students are likely to be eligible for the Federal Pell Grant, but we also know that changes of this scope may have some unintended consequences.
How will Transylvania respond to changes to the FAFSA in terms of need-based financial aid?
We’re hopeful more students will be eligible for more federal and state need-based financial aid as a result of these changes. We have an ongoing commitment to provide our own need-based grant funds to supplement students’ eligibility for federal and state programs. Our Pell Guarantee (formerly 1780 Guarantee) will continue for students who qualified in 2023-24 and for those who are admitted to begin enrollment in fall 2024 and meet its requirements. As we begin to receive FAFSA data for our current students, we will be mindful of students who may experience negative impacts to financial aid eligibility due to these changes and make efforts to mitigate these impacts where possible.
What should students and families do if they have questions about the new FAFSA?
Our financial aid team will be happy to assist you with any questions you have about the 2024-25 FAFSA. Please keep in mind that these changes are significant for us too, and, in some cases, we’ll be learning as we go. We’ll appreciate your patience and understanding. The more students we help, the more prepared we’ll be for the next student’s questions. Please get in touch with us at email@example.com or 859-233-8239.
While this year brings definite challenges in terms of the timing of the rollout and quite a bit of re-learning for anyone who has completed a FAFSA in the past, we’re hopeful that completing the FAFSA will eventually become an easier and more user-friendly experience.