FAFSA changes are coming. Here’s what you need to know.

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(Although there have been no projects since 1973, men between the ages of 18 and 25 are still required by federal law to register. But FAFSA applicants will now remain eligible for financial aid even if they are. ‘they didn’t sign up, said Mark Kantrowitz, an expert financial assistant.)

The FAFSA collects financial information on students and their families and acts as a portal to grants, scholarships, and loans for higher education. Last year, Congress approved changes to the financial aid form and process, reducing the number of questions by about two-thirds and tweaking its underlying formula for determining who receives aid.

The approved changes include replacing the so-called “expected family contribution,” which applicants found confusing. Instead, a “Student Aid Index” will be used as a guideline for the level of financial aid a student is eligible for. The updated formula expands access to federal needs-based Pell Grants and further protects a family’s income from financial aid calculations. And in a move that has already sparked some opposition, the revised formula eliminates a break for families with multiple college students at the same time.

Taken together, the changes represent a “major overhaul” of the student aid process that will take time to implement and communicate, according to the student aid office. Most of the changes were due to come into effect for the 2023-24 academic year. But the office said it would instead take a “phased” approach, delaying some changes for another year, until the 2024-25 school year begins.

In at least one case, the impact of a future change may be felt sooner. Federal law has eliminated a question on cash aid, so funds withdrawn from 529 college savings accounts owned by grandparents will no longer affect a student’s eligibility for federal aid. This change will likely take effect for the 2024-25 school year, Mr. Kantrowitz said, when the FAFSA is based on income from the 2022 tax year. The student or parent will no longer affect eligibility. To federal aid based on need, he said in an email.

Here are some questions and answers about the FAFSA and financial aid:

As soon as possible after its availability on October 1, according to financial aid experts. Many states and colleges use the form to determine scholarship assistance, and some programs allocate money on a first-come, first-served basis while available funds are exhausted. A list of deadlines for federal and state aid programs is available on the Federal Student Aid website.

And note: while the federal deadline to file a FAFSA extends until the summer after a given academic year, waiting until then means you’ll likely only be eligible for loans. The FAFSA for the current academic year, for example, has a federal filing deadline of June 30, 2022.

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