What’s new and what’s not in the FAFSA

Stuart Pate , Staff Writer

Few  would contend that college is anything other than expensive. Many turn to financial aid in hopes of paying for college. Several important changes have been implemented to the financial aid application. Still the largest changes are yet to come.  

This month, Madison College students will begin applying for grants and loans by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Late last year, the Consolidated Appropriations Act was passed into law with, in part, the intent to simplify the FAFSA. However, these changes have largely been delayed leaving the FAFSA changed in appearance with other important changes going unnoticed. All of this occurs in a time when large amounts of federal funding for students goes unclaimed due to students not filling out the FAFSA.  

One important change to the financial aid application is the suspension of the requirement to register for Selective Service. Yet, the question does remain on the FAFSA. Though there is a law requiring those assigned male at birth between the ages of 18 – 25 to register with Selective Service, students can opt out of this without concern of denial of financial aid. According to Madison College’s financial aid office, “Fewer barriers to applying for financial aid is a benefit to students because it results in more students completing the process and receiving needed assistance.” 

Another question that remains on the FAFSA despite no longer remaining consequential to financial aid eligibility concerns drug convictions. Students with drug convictions are now eligible for financial aid. According to Keyimani Alford, Dean of Student Access and Success at Madison College, many students often answered this question incorrectly. He continues, “Often students who were in these situations done so prior to enrolling in post-secondary education – their fresh start in a promising future.”  

Other changes include eligibility expanded to those currently incarcerated, an improved IRS look up procedure to help with accuracy in disclosing finances, and the overall methodology in determining how much aid students receive.  

One change to the FAFSA that has been delayed is the sheer number of questions. The Consolidated Appropriations called for the number of questions to be reduced from 108 down to 36. According to The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), this simplification can’t come soon enough. The organization’s view is that the changes will “simultaneously reduce the number of questions on the FAFSA and ensure families with the lowest incomes have the fewest questions to answer and therefore the simplest easy experience in completing the application.”  

According to an article published in the “Journal of Student Financial Aid,” “Every year, millions of students who would have qualified for financial aid do not complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Discouragingly, many of these students come from lower-income families and would have qualified for Pell Grants that do not have to be repaid.” 

Madison College’s financial aid office encourages students to fill out the FASFA. “Education is important and receiving assistance to complete that education helps lighten the financial burden of going to school. Even is a student doesn’t qualify for everything, they may qualify for something. “ 

Madison College students are encouraged to reach out to financial aid staff who are available at the Truax and Goodman South campuses. Financial aid help can be reached by phone at (608) 246-6170 and can be reached by email at [email protected] 

“Shortened or not, we’ll continue to help students navigate the FAFSA application and the financial aid process,” said the department.  

NASFAA offers contends, “The first mistake many students and families make is assuming they can’t afford college. We urge families not to be discouraged by sticker price of college until they know how much financial aid may be available to them. Financial aid can significantly reduce the cost of college.”