January 19, 2024

What Indiana Students need to know about FAFSA changes

U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Department of Education

An updated version of the application that helps millions of young people pay for college is now available. Several changes were made to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA — it’s the only way students can qualify for federal assistance to cover tuition, books and other higher education expenses.

These changes are happening as part of the FAFSA Simplification Act, a law that required the U.S. Department of Education to simplify the form to make it easier for students, parents and other contributors to file.

Here’s what’s new about FAFSA for the 2024-2025 academic year:

More financial aid opportunities for Indiana college students

One of the major changes to FAFSA is the new formula that determines a student's financial aid eligibility called the Student Aid Index. 

It’s calculated using tax information from the student, parents and other contributors. The SAI is similar to the previous formula. Other factors like family size are taken into consideration for federal grants eligibility.

This means financial aid opportunities could expand for Indiana college students in the next academic year.

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education expects 14,000 more Indiana students to be eligible for the federal Pell Grant because of the updated application, said senior associate commissioner Michelle Ashcraft.

“Certainly, if they qualify for that, at the federal level, we'll expect them to qualify for more at the state and institutional level as well,” Ashcraft said.

A shorter application window

The FAFSA application for the 2024-2025 academic year opened in late December, about three months later than previous years. That was due to a combination of challenges, including the time it took the Education Department to streamline the form. 

However, Indiana’s priority application deadline remains the same: April 15. 

Some applicants have voiced concerns about filing because there is less time to complete the application. But Ashcraft said the state feels confident families will have enough time to file it.

“We, as a state agency, don't feel nervous,” she said. “We've done this January to April timeline before, and we feel like we have a lot of robust resources to help students and their families file.”

Ashcraft also said when the state previously had the January to April deadline, more applications were filed.

“I think it's because it created a little bit of a sense of urgency, but also because it was nearing the time of year where people are really starting to think about their plans after high school,” she said.

Other states and colleges may have deadlines for financial aid filing. Ashcraft said to make sure to check the deadlines for all college’s students apply to.

All Indiana high school seniors must apply for FAFSA

This is the first year high school seniors in Indiana must file the FAFSA. During the 2023 legislative session, Senate Bill 167 passed and made it a requirement for seniors to file. 

Advocates for the law say more students could consider college options when they know how much federal aid could help cover tuition and other costs. 

“See what they're eligible for because they're likely eligible for more than what they may think,” Ashcraft said.

There are exceptions to the law for some students: high school seniors at some nonpublic schools, students who have a parent sign a waiver to decline to complete FAFSA and/or students who have a principal or counselor sign the waiver if the student’s parent can’t be contacted before the filing deadline.

Lawmakers will reevaluate the mandate in 10 years.

FAFSA filing resources

The state’s Learn More Indiana initiative offers help to students and families filling out the application. The website explains the various types of grants and aid a student can receive. For more info go to: learnmoreindiana.org.

Ashcraft said there will be FAFSA filing events scheduled throughout the state. 

Indiana’s biggest FAFSA filing event is ‘College Goal Sunday,’ where many colleges around the state offer free filing services to students. 

This year's College Goal Sunday is Feb. 25.

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