A simpler application for federal student financial aid is expected later this year for students seeking aid for college in 2024-2025.
Alabama Commission on Higher Education Executive Director Jim Purcell said recent changes in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, include the form only having 36 questions, rather than the previous 108. Reporting income and tax data is also supposed to be easier, he said.
But there are also changes to who will qualify for aid and how much.
“It is going to be significantly different,” Purcell said at a Friday ACHE board meeting. “The new formula emphasizes wealth instead of cash flow.”
That means family farms or businesses will be factored into the formula and could mean less aid for those who would have previously qualified if only family income were considered, Purcell said.
Also, the number of children a family has enrolled in higher education will no longer factor into their loan calculations.
“… Lower-income students will be eligible for more aid and funding,” Purcell said. “Incarcerated students and students who have been convicted of drug offenses can now be eligible.”
One glitch in the rollout of the new form is that it won’t be available until December, later than previous years, Purcell said. Many colleges and universities allow for early enrollment before that.
“So this is moving everybody’s activity back,” Purcell said.
Besides federal loans, FAFSA is used as a base for many scholarships and other aid, so filling it out opens more possibilities to students, Purcell previously said.
The Alabama State Board of Education in 2021 began requiring graduating high school students to complete the FAFSA. At the time, policymakers said Alabama students were leaving more than $60 million per year in free aid on the table.
As of late August, 62.7% of Alabama’s class of 2023 had filled out the application, compared to 57.6% of students nationwide and 50% of Alabama seniors in 2021.
There’s a waiver for parents to opt out of the application and education leaders never expected a 100% completion rate.