July 18, 2024

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The new FAFSA filing season opens December 31

2 min read

For many families, financial aid is key when it comes to paying for college.

But students must first fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to access any assistance. And this year, the FAFSA has been significantly delayed.

For the 2024-2025 school year, a new, streamlined FAFSA form will be available on or before Dec. 31, 2023, up to nearly three months later than in previous years. (The Education Department said it plans to return to an Oct. 1 start date next year.)

“The irony is they are changing the FAFSA to make it simpler and easier but in doing that, you’ve created a problem,” said Mary Morris, CEO of Virginia529, one of the largest 529 plans in the country. For families trying to navigate the process, a new formula and the delay are “intimidating and scary and annoying.”

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The FAFSA serves as the gateway to all federal aid money, including loans, work study and grants, which are the most desirable kinds of assistance because they typically do not need to be repaid.

In ordinary years, high school graduates miss out on billions in federal grants because they don’t fill out the FAFSA. 

Many families mistakenly assume they won’t qualify for financial aid and don’t even bother to apply. Others say a lengthy and overly complicated application is a major hurdle.

The plan to simplify the FAFSA has been years in the making. In 2020, the Consolidated Appropriations Act was passed to streamline the process. Those changes are finally going into effect.

Why it’s important to file the FAFSA early

Despite the delay, it’s still advantageous for students to file the FAFSA as soon as they can, according to Rick Castellano, a spokesperson for Sallie Mae.

The earlier families fill out the form, the better their chances are to receive aid, since some financial aid is awarded on a first-come,…

2023-12-04 11:45:00

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