"The FAFSA Simplification Act represents a significant overhaul of the processes and systems used to award federal student aid starting with the 2024–25 award year. This includes the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)® form, need analysis, and many policies and procedures for schools that participate in federal student aid programs." —Federal Student Aid
The 2024-25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will see the implementation of some of the biggest changes in recent times to this important aid application.
Legislation passed by Congress in 2020 sets the goal of simplifying the application process and ushers in changes in the calculation of aid eligibility. The most obvious changes can be broken down into three categories: Simplification, Financial Data, and SAI.
VMI's financial aid team is here to help interested students and current cadets as this transition of the FAFSA takes place. Here are some answers to common questions across higher education during this update:
When will the 2024-25 FAFSA become available for students to complete?
The FAFSA has been made available via a soft launch. Visit the official Federal Student Aid site for the latest notices and updates, as well as the application itself.
Is the FAFSA still required for financial aid?
Yes. While the window for applying to aid will be shortened with these updates, the FAFSA is still required for VMI (and other colleges across the nation) for those wishing to receive aid. It is important that those looking to receive aid file the FAFASA as soon as it becomes available.
Should I still apply to VMI now, or should I wait for the FAFSA?
Admission to VMI for students wishing to matriculate in Fall 2024 is open now, and applications are being processed. First-year students, transfer students, and international students are all encouraged to begin their application. For all first-year students (domestic and international) there is now the option of utilizing Common App. Visit the Apply page for full details and deadlines.
NOTE: An individual must be appointed to the Institute before a final financial aid offer is made, so it is important to complete all application requirements as soon as possible.
What about other funding?
There are a number of funding opportunities, including grants, scholarships, and loans available to applicants and cadets enrolled at VMI. Some are reliant on FAFSA information, but others are not. Explore the types of aid available and reach out to the Financial Aid Office if you have any specific questions.
What exactly are all of these changes and how will they affect my aid eligibility?
Upon release for 2024-23, the FAFSA will be reduced in length from a possible maximum of 108 questions to a possible maximum of 46 questions. Since the application itself is now dynamic on the web, skipping questions that are not pertinent to specific applicants, some students may not see all questions.
In previous FAFSA applications, students, and parent(s) (when students are dependent) entered their tax information or used the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) to transfer tax data from the IRS to the FAFSA. Beginning with 2024-25, all persons listing tax information on the FAFSA will be required to use the IRS Direct Data Exchange (DDX) to share tax information or confirm non-filing status. This change means that the student and all parents (when students are dependent) with tax data to report must get an FSA ID.
Note: These IDs can be created before the FAFSA for 2024-25 launches in December.
Student Aid Index (SAI)
In previous years, the FAFSA calculated Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). In the 2024-25 application, this calculation will be replaced by the Student Aid Index (SAI). Unlike the EFC, this new SAI calculation can result in a negative number, with the minimum SAI being -1500. Additional changes to the calculation may affect a student's aid eligibility:
- SAI removes the number of family members in college from the calculation. The FAFSA previously divided the EFC proportionally based on the number of family members in the household enrolled in college. This change is universal, so a sibling(s) at schools other than VMI may also see aid eligibility changes.
- Federal Pell Grant access will be expanded. It will be linked to household size and federal poverty levels for automatic eligibility. Families making less than 175% and single parents making less than 225% of the federal poverty level will see their students receive a maximum Federal Pell Grant award. Minimum Pell Grants will be guaranteed to students from households below 275%, 325%, 350%, or 400% of the poverty level, depending on household structure. Pell awards between the maximum and minimum amounts will be determined by SAI.
- Income Protection Allowances (IPAs) will increase. An IPA is the amount of money not considered in FAFSA calculations to ensure families have enough resources to cover basic living expenses. This number will increase, lowering the amount of money considered in the SAI calculation. IPAs will increase by 20% for parents, up to about $2400 (35%) for most students, and up to about $6500 (60%) for students who are single parents.
- Family farms and small businesses may require reporting, and could influence SAI.
Key Tips to Start Preparing for FAFSA
Every person who reports any information on the FAFSA is called a contributor. Every contributor needs an FSA ID to access the FAFSA. Contributors should set up an FSA ID now.
For a student to invite a contributor to complete a section of the FAFSA, they'll need to enter the person's name, email, date of birth, and Social Security number.
If you're a student who invited a contributor by mistake, and now want to uninvite that person, you can log in to your FAFSA and change the contributor.
Once submitted, expect to receive a confirmation email within a few days, which includes an estimated Student Aid Index (SAI).
Federal Student Aid will begin sending out FAFSA Submission Summaries (FSS) to students, starting at the end of January 2024.
They have also indicated that results will now be transmitted to schools and state agencies in the first half of March. This is a change from the originally stated end of January timeline.
If a parent fills out the parent FAFSA section and provides consent for the FAFSA to collect that parent's federal income information from the IRS, the FAFSA will attach that tax information to the FAFSA of any other student that designates the parent as a contributor (so parents with multiple children attending college only have to complete the parent block once).
Note: If parents have different 529 account values for each child, the parent will need to go back into each child's FAFSA and manually update this value on each one.
Any incomplete FAFSA will be deleted after 45 days. However, the 45-day window can be reset by any contributor on the FAFSA making an update to information reported on the application. So if you're someone waiting on another contributor to complete the form, go in and make a change to reset the clock.