FAFSA Simplification FAQ

General Questions

FAFSA Simplification

What is FAFSA Simplification?

This process is the first major redesign of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process in over 40 years. It represents a significant overhaul of federal student aid, including changes to the FAFSA form, need analysis, storage of federal student aid application data, and many policies and procedures for schools that participate in Title IV programs. Students and families will see a different measure of their ability to pay for college and experience a change in the methodology used to determine aid.

FAFSA Major Changes

What major changes will FAFSA Simplification introduce? 

There are numerous changes to different aspects of the FAFSA, with major changes including the application dates, the length of the form, questions on the form, the calculation for financial need analysis, introduction of new vocabulary, ability to create an FSA ID without a Social Security Number, and the requirement to consent to data sharing with the IRS. Additional changes are detailed in other answers. 

Changes to Application Dates

What are the major changes to key FAFSA application dates? 

  • The 2024–2025 FAFSA form will be available on December 31, 2023 (instead of October 1 as in previous years).   
  • The priority deadline for submitting the 2024–2025 FAFSA/CADAA has been extended to April 2, 2024, due to the delayed application opening. However, first time Cal Grant applicants must still submit their GPA by the original March 4, 2024 deadline.  

Changes to Application Form

What are the major changes to the FAFSA application form?

Changes to FAFSA Questions: 

  • The number of questions will be reduced and the application will maximize the use of previously collected data. 
  • Some questions will have additional available responses to better describe an applicant’s unique circumstances. 
  • The form will include new demographic questions about an applicant’s gender and race/ethnicity, but students will be offered a choice of “Prefer Not to Answer.” Schools and state agencies will not be able to see a contributor’s responses to these questions and this information will not be used to calculate aid. 

Changes to support for completing the FAFSA form: 

  • Resources for completing the FAFSA form will be expanded to the 11 most common languages spoken in the United States. 
  • Information connected to a student’s and other contributors’ FSA ID will be automatically populated in the form each year. 
  • Certain information provided in the new FAFSA form will be carried over to the applicant’s form the following year; the greatest benefits of this will be felt in the second year of the new FAFSA (for the 2025–26 application). 
  • Applicants may continue to receive support in completing the FAFSA form from financial professionals, but will need to complete and submit the form themselves. 

Changes to FAFSA form processing: 

  • Students can list up to 20 schools on their FAFSA via the online application. 
  • Foster, homeless, and unaccompanied youth—as well as applicants who cannot provide parental information—will be able to complete the form with a provisional independent student determination and receive a calculated SAI. 

Changes to Need-Analysis Calculation

What are the major changes to need-analysis calculation with the new FAFSA? 

Financial need will be calculated and determined with a new need-analysis formula: COA – SAI – OFA = financial need.   

  • The Cost of Attendance (COA) will be the starting point for calculating financial need. COA includes direct costs (charges for which Mesa College bills you directly) and estimated indirect costs (living expenses) to fund educational expenses for a year.   
  • The Student Aid Index (SAI) is a formal evaluation of a student’s approximate financial resources to contribute toward their education for a specific award year and will replace the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). 
  • Other Financial Assistance (OFA) is other financial aid awarded to the applicant.  

The formula uses information that applicants provide on the FAFSA form and, in most cases, federal tax information (FTI) that is retrieved directly from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The new need-analysis formula:  

  • removes the number of family members in college from the calculation
  • allows a minimum SAI of -$1,500,
  • implements separate eligibility determination criteria for Federal Pell Grants based on federal poverty levels and family size.  

The new formula also includes changes to asset reporting:  

  • Child support received will be included in assets and not as untaxed income. 
  • Families who own a small business/farm that also serves as primary residence will now have assets of that business/farm considered in their need-analysis calculation. 

Negative SAI

What does it mean if my SAI is negative? 

The Student Aid Index (SAI) is used by financial aid offices when determining student eligibility for need-based financial aid. SAIs can range from -1500 to 999,999. Lower SAIs (including negative SIAs) indicate a higher financial need. 


How is the SAI different from the EFC? 

The SAI is a number that determines each student’s eligibility for certain types of federal student aid and will replace the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). 

  • SAI will determine eligibility for all aid except for determining minimum and maximum Pell Grants. 
  • Pell Grant will be based on Dependency, Marital Status, Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), Poverty Level, and Enrollment Status. 
  • EFC could never go below 0, SAI can be as low as negative -1500. 
  • SAI formula removes the state and other tax income exclusion. 
  • SAI formula eliminates the family farm and small business asset exclusions–families must report. 
  • Income protection allowances updated to higher amounts. 
  • Number in college is eliminated–SAI will not take into consideration the number of family members in college.  
  • The parent reported on the FAFSA is the one that provided a greater portion of student’s financial support, no longer who the student lived with the most.

Benefits of FAFSA Simplification

What are the benefits of FAFSA Simplification? 

The benefits of FAFSA simplification include: 

  • A more streamlined application process. 
  • Expanded eligibility for federal student aid. 
  • Expanded eligibility for the Federal Pell Grant. 
  • Reduced barriers for certain student populations. 
  • A better user experience for the FAFSA form. 
  • Enhanced data sharing with the IRS to simplify the applicant's experience. 

Additional benefits for certain student populations include: 

  • Ability to be assigned a “provisional independent” status to receive a calculated Student Aid Index (SAI) while independent student status is being verified. 
  • Students who have their independent student status approved by a financial aid administrator will also be eligible for a renewal of their dependency status in subsequent years, if their circumstances remain unchanged. 
  • Ability for family members without Social Security Numbers to verify identity with an address instead of SSN. 
  • Eligibility for the Pell Grant is extended to incarcerated students. 

Expanded Eligibility

How will eligibility for federal student aid be expanded? 

Eligibility for federal student aid will be expanded in the following ways:  

  • Selective Service and drug conviction questions have been eliminated to reduce applicant barriers.  
  • New methodology will be introduced to calculate and determine applicant eligibility.  
  • The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will be replaced with the Student Aid Index (SAI).  
  • The new need-analysis formula allows for a negative SAI calculation and implements separate eligibility criteria for Federal Pell Grants.  
  • Federal Pell Grant access will be expanded and linked to family size and federal poverty levels, which will allow more students and families from low-income backgrounds to qualify.  
  • Federal Pell Grant access will be restored to incarcerated students under specific rules and programs. 

FAFSA Requirements for Completion

What will I need to complete the FAFSA? 

We highly recommend reading the Department of Education's Pro Tips for the 2024–25 FAFSA Form as you prepare to complete it. You along with any contributors will each need your own account. For parents, it will be helpful to have tax returns for the reporting year (2022 tax returns for the 2024-2025 FAFSA) and records of child support received, net worth of savings, investments, businesses and farms, if applicable. 

FAFSA Submission Summary

What is the FAFSA Submission Summary? 

The FAFSA Submission Summary replaces the Student Aid Report (SAR) as the student’s output document providing a summary of data input on the FAFSA form. 

Family Size Definition

What is “Family Size” on the FAFSA? 

Family Size replaces the term “household size” on the FAFSA form. It captures the appropriate number of family members and dependents in the applicant’s household. 

Reporting and Tax Filing

IRS Direct Data Share

What is Direct Data Share with the IRS? 

Direct data share with the IRS will replace what is currently known as the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). This allows the IRS to directly provide Federal Tax Information (FTI) for contributors to an applicant’s FAFSA.  

FAFSA Contributors

Who is considered a “contributor” for the new FAFSA? 

Anyone asked to provide information on the aid application—student, student’s spouse, student’s parent(s) and/or stepparents(s)—is called a “contributor” to the application. Contributors must provide consent and approval for federal tax information (FTI) along with their signature on the FAFSA form. 

  • The student applying for aid is always a contributor. 
  • A student who is a dependent will have at least one parent as a contributor. 
  • An independent student may not have contributors other than themselves. 
  • For independent students who are married and filed taxes separately for the reporting tax year, their spouse is considered a contributor.  

How do I determine which parent is a contributor for my FAFSA form? 

The new FAFSA form will include a “Parent Wizard,” an interactive worksheet that helps the applicant to determine which parent or parents they should be planning to include on their application. 

  • If the parents are married and their tax filing status was "married filing jointly” for the reporting year, then only one parent needs to create an FSA ID and provide consent on the FAFSA. Providing consent allows both parents' tax information from their tax return to be retrieved from the IRS. 
  • If the parents are married and their tax filing status was "married filing separately” for the reporting year, then they will both need to create an FSA ID and will both need to provide consent on the FAFSA, since their tax information is provided on separate tax returns. 
  • If the parents are separated or divorced, the Custodial Parent will need to create an FSA ID and provide consent on the FAFSA.

A contributor to my form doesn’t have an SSN (Social Security Number), can I still file my FAFSA? 

Yes, if your contributor doesn’t have an SSN, they can still create an account if one of the following statements is true:

  • I am a parent or spouse of a student who is applying for aid, and I don’t have an SSN.
  • I am a citizen of the Freely Associated States and need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form online.

While creating their FSA account, they’ll need to answer a few knowledge-based questions to verify their identity. If they answer these questions correctly, they’ll be able to use their account immediately. Here is a helpful document with step-by-step instructions for creating an FSA ID without an SSN in Spanish. 

Will other contributors be able to view my tax information on the FAFSA form? 

The applicant and other contributors will each have their own section of the FAFSA form to complete. According to the Department of Education, much of the applicant’s tax return information, including information from their spouse and parents, will come directly from the IRS and will not be viewable by the student and other contributors. 

What does it mean that “contributors” to the FAFSA will need to provide their consent? 

Students, spouses, parents, and stepparents (any contributors) will now need to provide their consent to provide their Federal Tax Information (FTI) in the new Consent to Retrieve and Disclose Federal Tax Information section of the FAFSA for federal student aid eligibility. Once given, consent lasts for that application year; consent will need to be given for all contributors every year the applicant submits a FAFSA. 

What happens if a contributor does not consent to the direct data share with the IRS? 

It is vital that all contributors provide consent for direct data share. If any contributor to the FAFSA form does not provide consent, submission of the form will still be allowed. However, a Student Aid Index (SAI) will not be calculated, so the student will not be eligible to receive Title IV federal student aid. 

How do contributors provide consent for data exchange with the IRS? 

Each contributor will be asked to provide consent in a section of the FAFSA application form that provides details about what information is shared. When completing the FAFSA, students will be able to invite contributors to complete their section of the form by providing an email address and basic information for the contributor. That contributor (parent or spouse) must log in to the form with their FSA ID and consent to the data exchange. Alternatively, parents may start a FAFSA form on behalf of their student and invite the student to complete their section.

I didn’t complete taxes for the reporting year, do I have to provide consent? 

Yes. Even if a tax return has not been completed, the applicant and all other contributors must provide consent in order for the student to be considered eligible for federal financial aid. Note that if taxes were not filed and no filing extension has been obtained, the applicant may not be eligible for Title IV federal student aid. 

Is consent needed every year for the FAFSA? 

Yes, contributors will need to consent to direct data share with the IRS for the FAFSA every year, but only once a year when completing the form. Once data is exchanged with the IRS, consent will not be able to be revoked.  

I declined to provide my consent but have changed my mind. Will I be able to update my FAFSA? 

Yes. Throughout the 2024-2025 FAFSA, there are several opportunities to update your consent approval. You can log in to and update your consent on your dashboard.   

Custodial Parent Definition

Who is the “Custodial Parent” for the FAFSA? 

For dependent students, the Custodial Parent will be the parent(s) who provided the most financial support, instead of the parent(s) with whom the student lived more during the past 12 months. If both parents provided an exactly equal amount of financial support, then this will typically be the parent with the greater income or assets. The Custodial Parent will need to create an FSA ID to provide their information for the student’s FAFSA.    

Special Tax Situations

What if my tax information is not available through the IRS? 

Applicants with unique circumstances (like international students or families navigating identity fraud) will still need to provide consent for direct data exchange with the IRS. For instances where income and tax information cannot be obtained directly from the IRS, the applicant would have to manually enter the necessary information into the FAFSA, and that manual entry may be subject to verification. 

I filed a foreign tax return, do I need to provide this information on my student's FAFSA? 

Yes. Foreign tax filers can enter tax information manually on their student's FAFSA. 


What is the FSA ID? 

An FSA ID is the Account Username and Password needed to file a FAFSA form and used to log in to all Federal Student Aid products and tools on There will be two-step verification for the FAFSA, and all contributors must have an FSA ID to log into the online form. 

How do I register for an FSA ID? 

Students and other contributors register for an FSA ID through the federal student aid website. Most continuing students will have created an FSA ID to file their FAFSA in previous years. 

Who needs an FSA ID? 

Every contributor to an applicant’s FAFSA form will need to create an FSA ID in order to provide consent for data share with the IRS. Federal Student Aid (FSA) recommends all parents create an FSA ID.  

Does my spouse need an FSA ID? 

If you are currently married but did not file taxes jointly in the year 2022, then yes, your spouse will need an FSA ID to file their part of the FAFSA.  

Dependent Students without Parent Information

My parent(s) refuse to provide their information on my FAFSA. What should I do? 

If you are determined to be a Dependent Student, based on the information you've added to your 2024-2025 FAFSA, and your parent refuses to provide their information, then you can indicate that you would like to be considered for a Direct Unsubsidized Loan. The Direct Unsubsidized Loan is the only federal financial aid that you can be considered for without your parent's information.   

Aid, Grant, and Scholarship Changes

Pell Grants

I have a Pell Grant, will it be affected? 

Starting in 2024-2025 Pell Grant will be based on Dependency, Marital Status, Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), Poverty Level, and Enrollment Status. Other need-based financial aid will be determined based on the Student Aid Index (SAI). Mesa College is still determining the extent of changes to financial aid eligibility due to the new FAFSA. More information will be provided when available.