An Update on FAFSA Simplification: One Year Later

Simplifying the Simplified FAFSA: One Year Later

By Michele Kosboth, Director of Financial Aid
March 7, 2024

Last year at this time I wrote to you about the changes we expected to see as a result of the Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act, the focus of which was simplifying the FAFSA: reducing the number of questions that students and contributors had to answer, mandating the use of IRS tax data for all contributors to the FAFSA, and changing the formula behind the FAFSA. That last one will, in theory, result in the expansion of the pool of students who will be eligible for the Federal Pell Grant. 
I say “in theory” because to date the only thing that has been possible is that students and their contributors are (mostly) able to complete the FAFSA. The Department of Education has not yet begun processing those completed applications, and they have not begun sending the results to any colleges listed on the FAFSA. Students are also not currently able to correct the FAFSA, add additional college codes to it, or otherwise know if it has been successfully submitted. 
What students and parents can do is everything and anything that the colleges to which they are applying tell them to do. Look at those application portals! Make sure you have done the FAFSA to the best of your abilities and submitted any documents that colleges have requested. If a college has its own aid application to supplement their process in the absence of the FAFSA results, you’ll want to be sure that you’ve completed that. Colleges are usually pretty good at communicating about anything that is still missing, so pay attention to any communication from the aid or admissions offices! 
For colleges like Oberlin that also require the CSS Profile application to determine need for their own institutional aid, the situation is a little less frustrating. We have been able to collect information from our prospective students and their parents to determine need for assistance. Because colleges like Oberlin use the CSS Profile and a separate analysis for awarding our own institutional funding, we can also do things a little differently than the FAFSA does, such as continue to take into consideration multiple siblings in college when determining need for our own institutional need-based aid. We can estimate need for at least the Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans, and for Federal Work Study as well. Once we begin receiving the FAFSA data for our admitted students, we will review those students, adjust any federal aid awards accordingly, and communicate those changes to students. 
It is our hope that once the Department of Education begins processing the millions of applications they have and pushing the results out to the colleges and universities who are eagerly awaiting their arrival, we will be able to resolve any issues. It’s frustrating for all of us in the aid offices because we are usually in the position of being able to help students navigate this process more effectively. We are used to knowing the answers, or at least being able to get them when we don’t. But we are in this together, and as we know more, we will communicate more to our students and parents. 
Once again, the primary message here is if anyone has questions, they should not hesitate to ask. We’re here for you!