Resource

In December 2020, Congress passed the bipartisan FAFSA Simplification Act that mandated a new, simpler Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which overhauled the federal financial aid formula. These FAFSA updates are expected to help an additional 610,000 students qualify for a federal Pell Grant, and another 1.5 million students qualify for the maximum Pell award. The opportunity for more students and families of color or from low-income backgrounds to have access to a simpler, improved FAFSA broadens the hopes of realizing the American dream. Yet, for tens of thousands of students, attending college is deterred by the cost and financial strains. Tuition could be offset with the help of federal financial aid — but there are major problems with what the Department of Education is calling the Better FAFSA. 

As widely reported, there have been several delays and setbacks in the implementation of the Better FAFSA: the application process that traditionally opens October 1 didn’t open until late December, and the launch was an online disaster. This has a domino effect. These months-long delays are significantly reducing the time that students have to consider financial aid information when deciding where to enroll for college, causing much distress among our nation’s families, students, educators, and colleges who worry about the cost of tuition. Traditionally, students have been able to receive their financial aid offers as soon as students receive their admission decisions, which would be as early as December. But this year, offers may not be arrive until late March or April.  

Because students will be receiving financial aid offers from colleges they applied to months later than usual, many students will be forced to make a decision within a much shorter timeline on where they will enroll for college by May 1st, what’s known as Decision Day — and some students may have to make that decision without knowing what their financial aid package will be. For continuing college students, while they won’t miss out on deadlines for receiving state, institutional, or scholarship aid, FAFSA delays leave these students in the dark about what their financial aid award offers will be for the upcoming school year. 

Every day that there is a delay or complication with the current FAFSA system increases the risk that students who want to attend and graduate from college won’t be able to do so. This is especially dire for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds, who must weigh their college options based on financial cost. This FAFSA hub provides resources and materials that students, families, and advocates need to complete the Better FAFSA (2024-2025 cycle) and ensure equitable college-going opportunities for more students. 

 EdTrust’s Better FAFSA FAQ 

Better FAFSA Resources

Federal Student Aid (FSA) Better FAFSA Resources 

Resources to Check Enrollment and Financial Aid Deadlines for Colleges

National College Attainment Network (NCAN) Resources

Better FAFSA Resources for Students with Parents without a Social Security Number (SSN)

Better FAFSA for Mixed Status Families: Updates from the Department of Education 

  •  NCAN Resource: FAFSA Now Works for Almost All (Published 3/13/2024) 
  • Privacy of Data Collected Through the FAFSA: The privacy of data collected through the FAFSA is protected by federal law, which prohibits the use of data collected through the FAFSA for anything other than calculating federal and state financial aid. Entities with access to this data are also required to protect the data against security threats or unauthorized uses. Federal Student Aid (FSA) will only share FAFSA information with the schools the student indicates they wish to attend (to give colleges information to offer complete financial aid packages) and a few federal and state government agencies (to check for accuracy or eligibility). School counselors should assure families of these protections and respond to any concerns. 

How does FSA protect student and parent information? FAFSA data is protected by encryption, “a mathematical formula to scramble your data into a format that is unreadable by anyone who might intercept it.” 

How long does FSA keep information?  Schools are required to retain records relating to a student’s aid eligibility for three years.  

Better FAFSA Resources for Homeless and Foster Youth: