September 1, 2023

By Leanne Soulard

The cost of college is, for most families, a major consideration in the decision about where a student will eventually attend school. Over the next few months, parents will complete financial aid forms like the FAFSA and the CSS PROFILE and students will begin applying for scholarships with the hope that the bottom line is something that everyone sees as reasonable.

A while back it was announced that there would be changes to the FAFSA beginning with the 2024-2025 form. Many of these changes are being implemented to streamline the process for students and families and they make a lot of sense but there are pros and cons. On the plus side, the number of questions on the application is reduced from 108 to around 36, financial aid for single-parent households is expected to increase, and Pell Grant eligibility will be expanded to many more students. There are also a few changes with regard to reportable income that have worked against students in the past. For example, qualified distributions from 529 plans owned by grandparents, aunt, uncle, etc., will no longer affect aid eligibility, and child support received annually will be reported as an asset instead of income. These changes will make higher education more accessible for many hard-working families out there. That said, there will no longer be a “sibling discount” for families who have more than one student enrolled in college at the same time and blended families can also expect to report income and assets that have not been required in the past.

Another important thing to know is that, at least for this year, the FAFSA will not be available to complete until early December (exact date TBD). This shortens the timeline to  meet priority deadlines but there are a couple of things you can do to ensure you’re ready when the new FAFSA is released:

  • Apply now for your FSA ID. This serves as your legal signature. Parents and students may not share an ID and everyone must apply for their own using their Social Security Number.
  • Visit the FAFSA website and become familiar with the steps you’ll need to take in December. 
  • Use the Net Price Calculator to determine what you can expect to pay at each school on your college list while you’re waiting for the FAFSA to go live. When used correctly, NPCs can approximate a family’s net price  within a few thousand dollars.

As always, we encourage students and families to contact colleges’ financial aid offices with specific questions or special circumstances that may impact their ability to pay. 

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