Helpful videos to understand the new FAFSA changes
Watch the videos below for a quick overview of the changes being implemented through the FAFSA simplification Act.
General FAFSA Simplification FAQs
What is FAFSA Simplification?
The FAFSA Simplification Act passed by the US Congress in 2020 allows for 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 changes to the FAFSA form, need analysis, storage of federal student aid application data, and many policies and procedures for schools that participate in Title IV programs. 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.
What major changes will FAFSA Simplification introduce?
There are numerous changes to different aspects of the FAFSA: the length of the form, questions asked, the calculation of a family's ability to contribute, introduction of new vocabulary, ability to create an FSA ID without a Social Security Number, and the requirement to consent to data sharing with the IRS. Additional changes are detailed in other answers.
Will there be changes to the California DREAM Act Application (CADAA) Form?
The CADAA application questions will change as well to follow the format of the FAFSA and the underlying calculation of the family’s ability to contribute will change as well. However; since data sharing with the IRS will not be available, there will be no requirement to create an FSA ID or consent to data sharing with the IRS.
What are the major changes to key FAFSA application dates?
- The 2024/2025 FAFSA and CADAA forms will be available by the end of December 2023 (instead of October as in previous years). The exact date has not yet been released by the U.S. Department of Education.
- In the future years, the FAFSA and CADAA are expected to open on October 1st
- The Cal Grant priority deadline for the 2024/25 academic year has been extended to April 2, 2024, due to the delayed application opening. UCLA students are still encouraged to complete the FAFSA by March 2, 2024 priority date to allow for new freshman and new transfer students to receive timely aid offers.
What are the major changes to the FAFSA application form?
Changes to FAFSA questions:
- The number of questions will be reduced and the application will maximize the use of previously collected data.
- Some questions will have additional available responses to better describe an applicant’s unique circumstances.
- The form will include new demographic questions about an applicant’s gender and race/ethnicity, but students will be offered a choice of “Prefer Not to Answer.” Schools and state agencies will notbe able to see a contributor’s responses to these questions and this information will not be used to calculate aid.
- Students will be able to list up to 20 schools on their FAFSA via the online application.
- 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.
Additional FAFSA process improvements:
- Resources for completing the FAFSA form will be expanded to the 11 most common languages spoken in the United States.
- Information connected to a student’s and other contributors’ FSA ID will be automatically populated in the form each year.
- Certain information provided in the new FAFSA form will be carried over to the applicant’s form the following year; the greatest benefits of this will be felt in the second year of the new FAFSA (for the 2025/26 application).
- Applicants may continue to receive support in completing the FAFSA form from financial professionals, but will need to complete and submit the form themselves.
What are the major changes to need-analysis calculation with the new FAFSA?
Financial need will be calculated and determined with a new need-analysis formula
- The Cost of Attendance (COA) will be the starting point for calculating financial need. COA includes direct costs (charges for which the university bills you directly) and estimated indirect costs (living expenses) to fund educational expenses for a year. UCLA's Cost of attendance information can be accessed through our Cost of Attendance | UCLA Financial Aid and Scholarships.
- The Student Aid Index (SAI) will be calculated by the Federal processor and will be used by the Financial Aid office as an indicator of the family's financial strength to determine what type(s) of aid will be offered to the student. SAI will replace the Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
- Other Financial Assistance (OFA) is other financial assistance awarded to the applicant and includes support such as fee waivers, outside scholarships, etc.
The formula uses information that applicants provide on the FAFSA® form and, in most cases, federal tax information (FTI) that is retrieved directly from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The new need-analysis formula (COA - SAI - OFA = Financial Need)
- removes the number of family members in college from the calculation,
- allows a minimum SAI of negative $1,500 (-$1,500).
- implements separate eligibility determination criteria for Federal Pell Grants based on federal poverty levels and family size.
The new formula also includes changes to asset reporting:
- 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.
What does it mean if my SAI is negative?
The Student Aid Index (SAI) is used by financial aid offices when determining student eligibility for need-based financial aid. The SAI can range from negative $1,500 (-$1,500) to $999,999. A lower SAI (including negative SAI) indicates a higher financial need.
How is the SAI different from the EFC?
The SAI is a number that determines each student’s eligibility for certain types of federal student aid and will replace the Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
- SAI will determine eligibility for all aid except for determining minimum and maximum Pell Grants.
- Pell Grant will be based on Dependency, Marital Status, adjusted gross income (AGI), Poverty Level, and Enrollment Status.
- EFC could never go below 0, but the SAI can be as low as negative $1,500 (-$1,500).
- SAI formula removes the state and other tax income exclusion.
- SAI formula eliminates the family farm and small business asset exclusions–families have to report.
- Income protection allowances are updated to higher amounts.
- Number in college is eliminated so that SAI will not take into consideration the number of family members in college.
- For FAFSA filers with divorced parents, the parent who should file the FAFSA is the one who provided a greater portion of student’s financial support and no longer who the student lived with the most.
What are the benefits of FAFSA® Simplification?
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 the IRS to simplify the applicant's experience.
Additional benefits for certain student populations include:
- Ability to be assigned a “provisional independent” status to receive a calculated Student Aid Index (SAI) while independent student status is being verified.
- Students who have their independent student status approved by a financial aid administrator will be eligible for a renewal of their dependency status in subsequent years if their circumstances remain unchanged.
- Ability for family members without Social Security Numbers to create an FSA Logon by providing ab email, address and answering supplemental questions to verify their identity.
- Eligibility for the Pell Grant is extended to incarcerated students.
How will eligibility for federal student aid be expanded?
Eligibility for federal student aid will be expanded in the following ways:
- Selective Service and drug conviction questions will be eliminated to reduce applicant barriers.
- New methodology will be introduced to calculate and determine applicant eligibility.
- The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will be replaced with the Student Aid Index (SAI).
- The new need-analysis formula allows for a negative SAI calculation and implements separate eligibility criteria for Federal Pell Grants.
- Federal Pell Grant access will be expanded and linked to family size and federal poverty levels, which will allow more students and families from low-income backgrounds to qualify.
- Federal Pell Grant access will be restored to incarcerated students under specific rules and programs.
What will I need to complete the FAFSA?
To complete the FAFSA, you and your parent(s), if you are a dependent student, will be required to consent to the IRS to share your tax information with the FAFSA processor. Each person required to provide their information on the FAFSA will need an FSA ID. It will be helpful to have records of child support received, net worth of investments, businesses and farms, if applicable. If the Federal processor is unable to retrieve your tax information from the IRS, you should also have the tax returns available (2022 tax returns for the 2024/25 academic year).
What is the FAFSA Submission Summary?
The FAFSA Submission Summary replaces the Student Aid Report (SAR) as the student’s output document providing a summary of data input on the FAFSA form.
What is “Family Size” on the FAFSA?
Family Size replaces the term “household size” on the FAFSA form. It captures the appropriate number of family members and dependents in the applicant’s household.
Reporting and Tax Filing FAQs
Who is considered a “contributor” for the new FAFSA?
Anyone asked to provide information on the aid application—student, student’s spouse, student’s parent(s) and/or stepparents(s)—is called a “contributor” to the application. Contributors are required to provide consent and approval for federal tax information (FTI) along with their signature on the FAFSA form.
- The student applying for aid is always a contributor.
- A student who is a dependent will have at least one parent as a contributor.
- An independent student may not have contributors other than themselves.
- For independent students who are married and filed taxes separately for the reporting tax year, their spouse is considered a contributor.
The new FAFSA form will include a "Parent Wizard," an interactive worksheet that helps the applicant to determine which parent or parents they should be planning to include on their application.
What is Direct Data Share with the IRS?
Direct data share with the IRS will replace what is currently known as the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). This allows the IRS to directly provide Federal Tax Information (FTI) for contributors to an applicant’s FAFSA.
What does it mean that “contributors” to the FAFSA will need to provide their consent?
Students, spouses, parents, and stepparents (any contributors identified during the application process) will 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. Once the required contributors are identified, the Federal processor will send an email to each with consent instructions. The consent lasts for that application year and will need to be given for all contributors every year the applicant submits a FAFSA.
What happens if a contributor does not consent to the direct data share with the IRS?
It is vital that all contributors provide consent for direct data share. 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, so the student will not be eligible to receive federal aid.
How do I determine which parent is a contributor for my FAFSA form?
The new FAFSA form will include a “Parent Wizard,” an interactive worksheet that helps the applicant to determine which parent or parents they should be planning to include on their application.
- If the parents are married and their tax filing status was "married filing jointly” for the reporting year, then only one parent needs to create an FSA ID and provide consent on the FAFSA. Providing consent allows both parents' tax information from their tax return to be retrieved from the IRS.
- If the parents are married and their tax filing status was "married filing separately” for the reporting year, then they will both need to create an FSA ID and will both need to provide consent on the FAFSA, since their tax information is provided on separate tax returns.
- If the parents are separated or divorced, the Custodial Parent will need to create an FSA ID and provide consent on the FAFSA.
Who is the “Custodial Parent” for the FAFSA?
For dependent students, the Custodial Parent will be the parent who provided the most financial support, instead of the parent with whom the student lived more during the past 12 months. If both parents provided an exact equal amount of financial support, then this will typically be the parent with greater income or assets. The Custodial Parent will need to create an FSA ID to provide their information for the student’s FAFSA.
How do contributors provide consent for data exchange with the IRS?
Each contributor will be asked to provide consent in a section of the FAFSA application form that provides details about what information is shared. When completing the FAFSA, students will be able to invite contributors to complete their section of the form by providing an email address and basic information for the contributor. That contributor (parent or spouse) will need to log in to the form with their FSA ID and will be able to consent to the data exchange. Alternatively, parents may start a FAFSA form on behalf of their student and invite the student to complete their section.
What is the FSA ID?
An FSA ID is the Account Username and Password needed to file a FAFSA form and used to log in to all Federal Student Aid products and tools on StudentAid.gov. There will be two-step verification for the FAFSA and all contributors must have an FSA ID to log into the online form.
How do I register for an FSA ID?
Students and other contributors register for an FSA ID through the federal student aid website. Most continuing students will have created an FSA ID to file their FAFSA in previous years.
Who needs an FSA ID?
Every contributor to an applicant’s FAFSA form will need to create an FSA ID in order to provide consent for data share with the IRS. Federal Student Aid (FSA) recommends all parents create an FSA ID.
Does my spouse need an FSA ID?
If you are married and filed taxes jointly, yes, your spouse will need an FSA ID to file their part of the FAFSA.
A contributor to my form doesn’t have an SSN (Social Security Number), can I still file my FAFSA?
Yes, Federal Student Aid (FSA) has indicated that a process will be available for people without Social Security Numbers to create an FSA ID and access the FAFSA. In order to create and FSA ID, a contributor without an SSN will need to:
- Provide an email address that is not associated with another FSA ID account
- Provide a mailing address
- Answer a series of questions to verify their identity
For most individuals creating an FSA ID without SSN, the results of identity authentication are immediate. If the federal processor is unable to authenticate an individual’s identity, they will be provided with a phone number and instructions on their next steps.
Is consent needed every year for the FAFSA?
Yes, contributors will need to consent to direct data share with the IRS for the FAFSA every year, but only once a year when completing the form. Once the consent is granted it cannot be revoked.
I didn’t complete taxes for the reporting year, do I have to provide consent?
Yes. Even if a tax return has not been completed, the applicant and all other contributors must provide consent in order for the student to be considered eligible for federal financial aid. Note that if taxes were not filed and no filing extension has been obtained, the applicant may not be eligible for Title IV federal student aid.
I declined to provide my consent but have changed my mind. Will I be able to update my FAFSA?
Yes. Throughout the 2024/25 FAFSA, there are several opportunities to update your consent approval. You can log in to StudentAid.Gov and update your consent on your dashboard.
Will other contributors be able to view my tax information on the FAFSA form?
No. The applicant and other contributors will each have their own section of the FAFSA form to complete. According to the Department of Education, much of the applicant’s tax return information, including information from their spouse and parents, will come directly from the IRS and will not be viewable by the student and other contributors.
What if my tax information is not available through the IRS?
Applicants with unique circumstances (like international students or families navigating identity fraud) will still need to provide consent for direct data exchange with the IRS. For instances where income and tax information cannot be obtained directly from the IRS, the applicant will be prompted to enter the necessary information into the FAFSA manually, and that manual entry may be subject to verification.
I filed a foreign tax return, do I need to provide this information on my student's FAFSA?
Yes. Foreign tax filers can enter tax information manually on their student's FAFSA.
My parent(s) refuse to provide their information on my FAFSA. What should I do?
If you are determined to be a Dependent Student, based on the information you've added to your 2024-2025 FAFSA, and your parent refuses to provide their information, then you can indicate that you would like to be considered for a Direct Unsubsidized Loan. The Direct Unsubsidized Loan is the only federal financial aid that you can be considered for without your parent's information.