On Sept. 29, Point Loma Nazarene University’s Student Financial Services sent an email to the entire student body stating, “FAFSA is changing!”
Daniel Reed, director of financial aid at PLNU, said in an email interview that this FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) overhaul was “the largest change in 40 years.”
These changes are being made due to an act that Congress passed in December 2020.
According to the email from Student Financial Services, instead of Oct. 1, the FAFSA will open in December.
Reed said that because of this delay, “the California Student Aid Commission has adjusted the state deadline to April 2, 2024.”
Reed said numerous things have changed, including the number of questions, the way information is collected and how students are qualified for aid based on the collected information.
“The goal was to simplify the FAFSA, and reducing from 108 questions to a maximum of 38 certainly makes it easier for FAFSA filers,” Reed said. “Beyond this, the biggest things are replacing the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) with the Student Aid Index (SAI).”
The change from the EFC to the SAI, according to Econofact, “is not just a change in name alone.”
For many students, the new SAI will be lower than the EFC. This means that these students will be qualified to receive more aid than before.
An article by CNBC said “More than half a million additional students will qualify for a Pell Grant, a type of aid available to low-income families.”
However, Reed said that despite the upcoming perks, some students will see little change, while still others will see a reduction or total loss in aid.
“Families with multiple children in college will likely see a higher SAI than what they would have seen in an EFC, and thus could be eligible for less need-based aid,” Reed said.
According to Reed, it was difficult to predict how many PLNU students would receive more or less aid because of the change to the SAI.
“Overall, we expect most students with high financial need to benefit from this change, and many middle and high-income families to see very little change,” Reed said.
According to an article by USA Today, there are many other changes to the FAFSA including the Federal Student Aid ID requirement for students and parents, and how in divorced families, the most financially supportive parent will be required to complete the FAFSA.
The email from Student Financial Services said “The FAFSA will be available in more languages, including the 11 most common languages spoken by English learner students and their parents.”
As for how the FAFSA changes affect dependent and independent students differently, Reed said that although the calculation used to compute aid differs between either student group, “the impact is similar across both.”
“There are some new definitions for qualifying as an independent student, and Point Loma may need to collect additional information to confirm eligibility,” Reed said.
Priscilla Araujo, a second-year psychology major, said that two of the FAFSA changes — the fewer questions and the addition of languages — were “necessary.”
“I know for my parents it was pretty hard for them, and I had to help them with it,” Araujo said, referring to FAFSA’s previous quantity of questions and lack of language accessibility. “And I know [that] it’s like that for most first-gen students.”
Bri Monzon, an applied health major and fourth-year student graduating this year, shared her own experiences with FAFSA and did not feel like the changes would impact her.
“I’ve never had the greatest luck with FAFSA as far as being awarded anything,” Monzon said. “I only get loans. I don’t get any grants for whatever reason.”
Monzon said this might be because she is “considered financially sound.” However, she said that her family had been struggling financially, despite FAFSA’s conclusion.
Reed said that this new FAFSA and SAI would not affect PLNU scholarships since these scholarships are merit-based.
As for students who will lose aid under these FAFSA changes, Reed suggested planning early and utilizing the scholarship site: scholarships.pointloma.edu.
“Point Loma will work with students and families who may experience a significant change due to FAFSA Simplification as we understand this is an external factor,” Reed said. “And we encourage you to meet with an SFS advisor with any financial concerns.”