By Sarah Wood
on October 6, 2021
The 2022-2023 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, opened Oct. 1 with a new online design and a few tweaks to financial information questions.
Filing the FAFSA is required for students who wish to be considered for federal financial aid and is used by colleges and states to determine eligibility for grants and scholarships. Students must reapply each year to receive aid.
The final date to submit the 2022-2023 FAFSA is June 30, 2023, but deadlines vary among institutions and states.
“Everybody should be filing a FAFSA form,” says Charlie Javice, founder and CEO of Frank and head of student solutions at JPMorgan Chase. “It shouldn’t really matter what your financial situation is, because it kind of leaves the door open even for private scholarships if you don’t qualify for need-based aid. So it’s super important, regardless of your household income, for the filing of that.”
Though the application did not directly change as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, individuals’ income or employment may have. Since the 2022-2023 FAFSA relies on information from 2020 tax returns, a student can inform financial aid offices directly about changes to his or her financial situation. Colleges then use professional judgment case by case to determine adjustments to the EFC, also known as expected family contribution.
Be prepared to verify financial changes. If job loss is the reason for out-of-date tax information, for example, students or families must provide documentation such as a separation letter, an employer statement or unemployment payment stub, according to Dana Kelly, vice president of professional development and institutional compliance at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.
“This is not necessarily something that you want to do across the board to all schools (you applied to) because it could be a fair amount of work,” she says. “But once you narrow down your choices, if it’s a school or two, you’re going to want to let them know that your circumstances are different.”
Katie Burns, a college admissions counselor at IvyWise, is concerned about how pandemic-related changes to income and employment will impact future student aid packages.
“If parents returned to jobs (in 2021), had greater income or more typical income, some students may find their need-based financial aid packages significantly smaller (next year) and it may mean some challenging decisions about their college tuition payments,” Burns, a former senior assistant director of admissions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Massachusetts, wrote in an email. “While you can never predict the future, I do strongly recommend students and families plan ahead for what the four years of college and financial aid may look like.”
Individuals or families should not claim stimulus checks or federal coronivarus-related grants on the form as untaxed or taxable income. The total amount of funds in an individual’s bank account at the time of completing the form, however, should be reported, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Larger changes stemming from the FAFSA Simplification Act, which was enacted in December 2020, are expected over the next few years. However, there are some differences to the 2022-2023 form that students and families should note.
Selective Service and Drug Conviction Questions
Despite the FAFSA Simplification Act not set to fully take effect until the 2024-2025 award year, the U.S. Department of Education has launched a phased implementation. Some of those changes have been made on this year’s form.
The requirement that male students register with the selective service to receive federal student aid was removed, as were consequences associated with answering “yes” to a question about drug-related convictions that occurred while receiving federal student aid. These questions are still featured on the FAFSA and students should answer them honestly, but colleges are no longer allowed to take the responses into consideration when determining whether a student is eligible for federal financial aid.
“We know that there is a disproportionate amount of minorities (impacted by this drug question) compared to others,” Javice says. “So we think this is a really good first step when it comes to equity in terms of financial aid and college access.”
For the 2023-2024 form, both questions will be removed entirely and students will no longer be able to register with selective service through the FAFSA.
FAFSA Website Updates
This year, the online FAFSA application was revamped to improve site navigation and the user experience.
Prior to filling out the form, applicants now have the option to indicate whether they are a student, parent or preparer.
In addition to using skip logic — which shows only questions that relate specifically to the applicant — more help texts are available throughout the form, especially around tax information. For example, screenshots of a tax form are provided to highlight the areas in which information should be pulled from for each question.
There is also more clarification around the household size and number in college question, observes Brendan Williams, senior director of external counseling at uAspire.
The Student Aid Report, a document summarizing applicants’ information from the FAFSA form, was also updated to be a multitab webpage rather than one page, Williams notes.
“I think for most students and families, this version of the FAFSA will be easier to fill out,” he says. “Because the design is simpler and the help text is more apparent. There’s more focus on certain areas that give students trouble.
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