As families prepare to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for the 2021-2022 school year for their college or graduate students, they’ll face three key changes.
Otherwise known as FAFSA, form has been available starting October 1 with a deadline to file by June 30, 2022.
This financial aid form help determine what federal assistance you can receive for school, such as grants, subsidized and unsubsidized loans, and work-study programs. States, colleges, and other private organizations use the form, too, to help them award financial assistance.
“Every college has a preferred deadline by when the FAFSA form should be completed,” said Kalman Chany, author of the Princeton Review’s ”Paying for College” book. “Be sure to meet those deadlines! Otherwise, it is like coming home to dinner late, you miss out on the good stuff.”
Here are the changes you should know about.
Changes to the income adjustment form
Starting with the 2021-2022 cycle, both students and parents can use the Internal Revenue Service’s Data Retrieval Tool to automatically input answers for Schedule 1 on the form.
Schedule 1 is used to report any income or adjustments related to income that can’t be entered on your IRS Form 1040 that you filed separately.
The FAFSA website also notes that students must contact the schools they’re planning to attend to discuss how their current financial situation has changed due to COVID-19.
If your income has already changed during the pandemic, you can also appeal your 2020-2021 FAFSA form for more aid.
“If your 2020 income will be less than the 2019 income required on the FAFSA, get your 2020 taxes completed by late February or early March 2021 in order to appeal your aid award based on income more representative of your current situation,” Chany said.
Enhanced visual additions to the FAFSA Form
FAFSA technology is also receiving an uplift this year. By year’s end, the Department of Education will launch a new version of its myStudentAid mobile app where users can customize their home page. The home page will include an overview of their aid, a breakdown of upcoming loan payments as well as checklists.
“The Aid summary will allow users to view their detailed loan and grant aid information, aid overpayments, remaining Direct Loan and Pell Grant eligibility,” the Department of Education said in a recent press release.
Other additions based on past user feedback include forms that now have guided images with relevant line numbers highlighted to help college students and their families navigate the form.
Changes to expected family contribution
The Expected Family Contribution, a measure of your family’s ability to pay school expenses, has also increased in this year’s FAFSA form. For those applying for the 2021-2022 school year, the number is now $27,000, a $1,000 increase compared with 2020-2021 form.
Your EFC determines how much financial aid you will receive. It is based on your family’s taxed and untaxed income, their assets, and if they receive benefits such as unemployment or Social Security.
Other key FAFSA reminders during the pandemic
Even if you’re staying financially afloat during the pandemic, you should still file, experts said.
“While you may think your income is too high and you won’t qualify for any need-based aid, many colleges use the FAFSA to trigger merit aid which is not based on income,” said Joseph Orsolini, founder at College Aid Planners Inc, a college financial planning firm. “Still, complete the FAFSA.”
Another reminder Orsolini has is to add more schools than you would normally would if there wasn’t a pandemic.
“With the pandemic limiting college visits this year, it might be a good idea to consider adding a few more schools to the FAFSA,” Orsolini said. “This year, it’s probably better to have more options to consider than fewer.”
Read more information and tips in our Student loans section