What to Know about the FAFSA 2023-25 Changes

by Morgan T. Rogers

One of the most important aspects of applying to college is understanding financial aid. Whether you’re an incoming first-year student or already have a few years behind you, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the best way to see if you qualify for free financial aid.

The FAFSA 2023-25 changes will impact how you qualify for financial assistance. Ultimately, the purpose behind these changes is to encourage more students to apply and to provide better access to financial aid for people of all backgrounds, but keeping up with recent updates is key to a smooth application process. Here’s what’s different this year.

Understanding the FAFSA 2023-25 Changes

One of the biggest changes to the FAFSA this year is its length. The application will be much shorter and rely almost entirely on parents’ tax returns from two years prior. This means a more straightforward financial aid application overall. But, in addition to this general change, you can expect to see some more detailed changes, too.

Student Eligibility

Previously, student eligibility was determined using the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), an estimate of how much a student and their family can afford to pay for college. This number is calculated based on several factors, including family size, income, taxes, and assets. Starting in 2023, the EFC will become the Student Aid Index (SAI). The SAI will largely be calculated in the same way as the EFC, but the shift in terminology communicates that this number doesn’t necessarily reflect the amount the family is expected to contribute.

What’s the Difference between the EFC and the SAI?

Where the minimum amount under the EFC model was $0, the SAI model will allow for a negative amount of $1,500. This may help students qualify for more assistance and better identify those with a higher need.

In addition, eligibility may change for families who have multiple students in college or who run family businesses or farms that generate income.

Pell Grant Qualification

Qualification for the federal Pell Grant will now largely be based on family size and income with fewer influencing factors. This means families may be able to get an idea of how much they qualify for before even filing for financial aid.

Additionally, there will be a higher income threshold to consider assets for families receiving means-tested benefits, like federal and state welfare programs. In short, more students will have the opportunity to qualify for the Pell Grant (including those who are already in college!).

Which Parent Fills Out the FAFSA in a Divorce or Separation

New regulations dictate which parent’s income will be included on the FAFSA application in families where parents are divorced or separated. Under the FAFSA 2023-25 changes, the custodial parent (i.e., the parent who has guardianship for the majority of the year) should fill out the FAFSA. In cases where parents share equal custody, the responsibility may default to the parent or household with the highest adjusted gross income (AGI).

Financial Gift Consequences

In previous years, families were required to report any financial gifts provided to students for college expenses. So, if a relative provided financial support for a student’s education, it impacted their family’s income—and in turn, their EFC.

Under the FAFSA 2023-25 changes, this is no longer a requirement. This means students who receive outside support to pay for college don’t have to worry about jeopardizing their financial aid eligibility.

When the FAFSA Is Available

Typically, the FAFSA becomes available on October 1 the year prior to the academic year. For example, the FAFSA for the 2022-23 academic year became available on October 1, 2021. While the FAFSA for 2024-25 was originally planned to be on schedule, it won’t be available until December 2023.

Applying for Financial Aid: Tips for Success

1. Apply Early

Submit your FAFSA as early as possible. Since it won’t be available until December 2023, make sure you have everything ready to go by the end of November so you can start your application as soon as it’s available to file. Ensure your parent has their tax documents from two years prior and gather any other documentation you might need ahead of time.

2. Send Your FAFSA to All Potential Schools

Instead of deciding on the school you want to attend and then sending your FAFSA to that single institution, send your FAFSA results to all the schools you’re considering. Your financial aid offers likely play a big part in your decision. By sending your FAFSA results to all the schools on your list, you can get a clearer picture of your options.

3. Know How Much You Need

After you send your FAFSA results to all of your potential schools, they’ll send you financial aid offer letters that explain how much federal aid, state aid, and any institutional aid you may qualify for. Before you get your letters, sit down with your family and get an idea of what you can afford. Will they be able to help you with monthly expenses? If so, how much can they contribute? Keep in mind that you’ll need some buffer room in your budget to account for everyday expenses, like toiletries, school supplies, and clothing.

Applying for financial aid may feel daunting, but the new FAFSA process is intended to make the experience simpler and more straightforward. To learn more about financial aid and completing the FAFSA, contact APU’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions.