New FAFSA: What Parents of College Students Need to Know

The new 2024-25 FAFSA will have a greater impact on divorced parents, undocumented parents and those with multiple kids in school.
Eliza Haverstock
By Eliza Haverstock 
Updated
Edited by Cecilia Clark

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Attention parents: If your kid will be in college during the 2024-25 academic year, you’ll need to fill out a redesigned Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The new FAFSA will launch by Dec. 31, a delay from its typical Oct. 1 release. It marks the form’s biggest overhaul in 40 years. The form will have fewer questions, some different processes and a new formula to calculate federal aid packages.

“With everything that's new, there's a little bit of learning that has to happen ... but at the end of the day, a shorter form is less of a burden on you, and it’s going to be a great opportunity for your student to have access to funding that can be impactful for the rest of their life,” says Kierstan Dufour, director of external training and partnerships at Get2College, a Mississippi college access organization of the Woodward Hines Education Foundation.

It’s important to submit the FAFSA if your kid will be in college next year. Otherwise, your student will be ineligible for federal student aid — including federal student loans, work study, some scholarships and up to $7,395 per year in need-based Pell Grants.

If you don't claim your child as a dependent, you don't have to fill out the FAFSA. Some FAFSA changes will be general for all parents, while other updates will only impact parents in certain situations.

Here are the key updates parents need to know about the new 2024-25 FAFSA.

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General FAFSA changes for parents

Tax information will be imported directly from the IRS

The new FAFSA will pull in your income and tax information directly from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), through a direct data exchange. Unlike in previous years, this step is not optional. Parents must consent to the IRS transfer when filling out the FAFSA in order for their student to be eligible for federal financial aid.

“You won't need to dig up an old tax return or other information, and the process is going to be more straightforward,” says James Kvaal, the U.S. undersecretary of education.

The timeline is delayed

In recent years, the FAFSA opened on Oct. 1 for the upcoming academic year. But the overhaul will delay the 2024-25 form release until as late as Dec. 31.

Families of prospective students should still submit the FAFSA as soon as possible after its release.

The earlier they submit the form, the earlier they’ll receive financial aid offer letters, which they can use to compare college options before the May 1 decision deadline, says Maria Hernandez, director of curriculum and engagement at 10,000 Degrees, a college access nonprofit organization in the Bay Area.

And some aid is first-come, first-served — so the sooner you apply, the larger the pool of aid you’ll have access to.

Parents are ‘contributors’

“Contributor” is a new term on the 2024-25 FAFSA that describes anyone who must provide their financial information on the form. It doesn’t mean you’re financially responsible for your student’s education. At least one parent will be considered a contributor, along with the student. A stepparent can also be a contributor.

Each contributor will need a unique username and password combination called a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID to access the FAFSA. You may have to wait up to three days between requesting your FSA ID and receiving it. Submit your FSA ID request on studentaid.gov now so you’re ready to go as soon as the FAFSA opens later this month.

Parents will fill out the FAFSA separately from students

Previously, students had to sit down with their parents to fill out the form together. Now, parents and students will submit their portions of the FAFSA separately, with their unique FSA IDs.

Still, it’s important for parents to fill out their portion of the FAFSA around the same time their child does. If a parent doesn’t submit the parent portion within 45 days of the student, the saved form will expire and the family will have to start it all over again, Dufour says.

It's easier for your kid to get free money

The “student aid index” (SAI) is replacing “expected family contribution” (EFC) as a measure of a student’s financial need. As a result, it’ll be easier for students to qualify for the need-based Pell Grant, which they won’t need to repay after leaving college.

“The new FAFSA will mean more students are eligible [for the Pell Grant],” Kvaal says. “Students who are eligible will get larger grants.”

610,000 additional students from low-income backgrounds will get Pell Grants under the new FAFSA, and 1.5 million additional students will qualify for the maximum $7,395 annual award.

Circumstantial FAFSA changes for parents

If you’re married

If you’re married but you file your tax return as Married Filed Jointly, only one parent needs to register as a contributor and fill out the FAFSA. This parent will report information for both parents.

If you’re married but you file your taxes separately from your spouse, both parents will need to register as contributors and fill out the FAFSA independently.

If you’re divorced or separated

If you’re divorced or legally separated, the parent who provided the most financial support for the student over the last 12 months will be the FAFSA contributor. If this parent is remarried and didn’t file their taxes jointly, their spouse will also be a contributor.

In past years, the FAFSA used the financial information of the parent whom the student lived with the majority of the time, regardless of whether they provided the most financial support.

If you’re undocumented

If you don’t have a Social Security number, there will be a different process for requesting an FSA ID; that process is not yet available. The Education Department says it will launch alongside the FAFSA, by Dec. 31.

The new FAFSA will also be available in 11 languages, instead of only English and Spanish.

If you own a small business or farm

On the new FAFSA, parents will be required to report the value of any small business or family farm they own. This could impact student aid packages.

If you have multiple kids in college

The “sibling discount” will disappear starting in the 2024-25 school year.

The new FAFSA will still include a question about how many dependent children you have in college at the same time, but it won’t figure in to federal financial aid packages, including the Pell Grant. But colleges may still use the question to determine their own aid packages.

“Students have the option to appeal to the college that they're attending, and ask if that second sibling does impact what the school wants to offer them,” Hernandez says.

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