Big changes being made to FAFSA

Posted at 10:28 AM, Nov 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-22 12:44:16-05

HELENA — How students apply to FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and who is able to utilize this federal aid is changing. MTN sat down with the Director of Financial Aid at Carroll College to find out what’s new.

FAFSA is changing for students. For starters, students won’t be able to start applying until sometime in December. Typically, that date would have been October 1st. Normally, students would receive their full offer of financial aid starting as early as December. Now that date will most likely be pushed to around, at the earliest, the end of February. Janet Riis, Director of Financial Aid at Carroll College, says that this will impact the timing in which students make final decisions for college.

“Students will have a delayed decision-making process of where they will go to school. You know, there are many factors for families deciding, you know, what's the right college for them, but financial aid plays a major factor in that,” says Riis.

The application itself is also changing. The IRS and FAFSA will now have a direct connection. Because of this, the number of questions on the FAFSA will be dramatically decreased.

“So, it's going from over 100 questions down to 30-some questions. And some students might just only have to answer 18,” says Riis.

Those who can benefit from federal aid will also be changed. About 20% more students will be eligible for these federal grants. And families who have not had to report assets from small businesses and farming a ranch will now have to do so. Additionally, families who have multiple students in higher education will be impacted, as well.

“So, it just broadens the eligibility for students. So, I encourage all families to fill it out, especially this year to see, you know, where they land and what that benchmark is for them this year because there are so many changes this year,” says Riis.

Riis recommends filling out your student aid account at least a week before applying to the FAFSA. Additionally, Carroll College has a section on its website completely dedicated to helping students better understand the FAFSA.