Over 610,000 college students will have the opportunity to receive crucial federal need-based grants, thanks to significant changes made to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.
According to data released by the White House and the Department of Education, the revised FAFSA form, which will be available by December 31, will make over 610,000 students newly eligible for Pell Grants. Additionally, around 1.5 million students will be able to receive the maximum Pell Grant award due to these changes.
The Biden administration continues its efforts to make higher education more accessible and affordable. Federal Student Aid COO Richard Cordray emphasized the critical role of Pell Grants in allowing students from all backgrounds to pursue their educational dreams. He stated, “We are deeply committed to making sure students from all backgrounds can easily apply for and receive the federal student aid they need through the better FAFSA form.”
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The FAFSA form is crucial for students to apply for financial aid, including Pell Grants and federal student loans. Simplifying the FAFSA process is vital for financial aid offices to determine the cost of attendance for families and assess their financial need. By moving from the expected family contribution need analysis formula to a student aid index, eligibility for federal student aid can be more accurately determined.
Under the new student aid index analysis formula, the number of family members in college will no longer be factored in, and separate criteria for Pell Grant eligibility will be implemented. This change allows for students with significant financial need to have a negative student aid index number, addressing a gap in previous versions of the form.
The revised FAFSA form aims to be much more user-friendly and efficient, with the potential for completion in as little as 10 minutes. This is made possible through the automatic importation of parents’ tax information from the Internal Revenue Service, ensuring accuracy. Additionally, the number of FAFSA questions has been significantly reduced to as few as 18 for some applicants, compared to the 103 questions on the previous form.
As colleges begin distributing financial aid letters in March, it is crucial for students to complete the FAFSA process early. Families should consider the net price of attendance after scholarships and grants are applied, focusing not only on tuition but also living expenses. Understanding the difference between scholarships, grants, and loans is essential, as loans must be repaid with interest.
To support students and families, the Department of Education offers resources such as the revised Federal Student Aid Estimator to familiarize themselves with the changes. Additionally, early decision applicants are encouraged to communicate with their prospective schools regarding financial aid awards in light of the delayed FAFSA. Counselors and educators can utilize the Better FAFSA Better Future digital toolkit to assist students in preparing for the release of the new FAFSA application.
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US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona hailed the implementation of the Bipartisan FAFSA Simplification Act as a significant overhaul of the federal financial aid application. He noted that these changes will bring affordable higher education within reach of more Americans.