NATIONAL NEWS

Why families applying for financial aid may initially have trouble with the new FAFSA

Jan 2, 2024, 3:53 PM

People walk on the campus of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in June 2023, in Chapel H...

People walk on the campus of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in June 2023, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Mandatory Credit: Eros Hoagland/Getty Images/File

Washington (CNN) — A long-awaited update to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as the FAFSA, was released on December 30. But some families are having trouble accessing the online form, which has so far only been available for short periods of time.

During what the Department of Education is calling a “soft launch,” the agency is monitoring site performance, conducting planned pauses for maintenance and making updates.

The FAFSA application was available for a 30-minute window on December 30, a 30-minute window on December 31 and a two-hour window on January 1, according to the Department of Education. More than 30,000 forms were successfully submitted during those times, and the form was reopened the afternoon of January 2.

When the FAFSA is paused, families may not be able to start or resume work on the form, which will be used to determine financial aid eligibility for the 2024-25 academic year.

The form is expected to be available for short periods of time during the coming days.

The Department of Education has been working on a major overhaul of the FAFSA for about three years, after Congress approved changes to the form to make it shorter and easier to fill out. More students are expected to qualify for financial aid.

Usually, the form is available October 1 each year, but the changes delayed this year’s release date. The updated form was required by law to be available by January 1, 2024.

Still, the Department of Education has said that families do not need to rush to immediately submit the FAFSA this year.

Even if a student submits the FAFSA now, the applicant will not receive the FAFSA Submission Summary (formerly known as the Student Aid Report) until late January. The report tells students how much federal student aid they are eligible for. An applicant will likely have to wait longer to hear from colleges about how much aid the school may provide.

How to submit the FAFSA

The FAFSA is available online at StudentAid.gov.

During the soft launch period, applicants may experience a waiting room feature, which will help control website volumes.

Users who log on during a temporary pause should check back at a later time to complete the form, the Department of Education said.

The student is responsible for filing the FAFSA, though if the student is a dependent, his or her parent must also sign the form. Both the parent and student will need to create their own account with Federal Student Aid, known as the FSA ID, before beginning to fill out the form.

The new FAFSA is easier to fill out

With the new form, some applicants will have to answer as few as 18 questions, which would take fewer than 10 minutes to complete, according to the Department of Education.

The number of questions on the FAFSA vary by applicant, based on his or her financial circumstance. The Department of Education said that for most users, it will take about an hour to finish the form.

There are two reasons the updated FAFSA is easier to fill out.

First, some information is now directly taken from a filer’s tax return. This means that an applicant won’t have to go hunting for the right information on his or her tax return to input into the FAFSA.

Additionally, a handful of questions have been eliminated entirely. For example, drug convictions no longer preclude someone from receiving financial aid. And as of the 2021-22 award year, male students are no longer required to register for the Selective Service in order to be eligible for financial aid, so that question has been removed from the new FASFA as well.

Some students will qualify for more financial aid

There have also been changes to the FAFSA calculation, which is expected to make more students eligible for federal financial aid.

In fact, the Department of Education estimates that 610,000 more students will qualify for a Pell grant on an annual basis. The Pell grant program is a key way the federal government helps students from low-income families go to college by providing eligible students with money they don’t have to pay back.

And an estimated 1.5 million more students will be eligible for the maximum Pell grant amount, which typically changes each year. The Pell grant is worth up to $7,395 during the current school year.

Students from the lowest-income families already get the maximum Pell grant. But those whose family income is in the range of $40,000 to $70,000 and who have no siblings in college are expected to see an increase in their Pell grant amount, according to a Brookings Institution report.

There are some students, specifically those with siblings in college at the same time, that may find that they are eligible for less financial aid with the new form.

Previously, students with siblings in college were often eligible for more financial aid than those who did not have a sibling enrolled at the same time – thanks to something known as the “sibling discount.”

For example, if a family had two children in college, each student’s eligibility for financial aid was roughly double what it would have been if the family did not have any other children in college at the same time.

But under the new FAFSA calculation, that benefit goes away. Not factoring in the other changes to the formula, the amount of financial aid a student is eligible for will no longer increase if he or she has a sibling in college at the same time.


The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

Kevin Monahan was convicted of second-degree murder, among other charges..
Mandatory Credit:	Lori V...

Ray Sanchez, CNN

New York man sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for killing woman when car turned in wrong driveway

Kevin Monahan was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for shooting and killing a woman who was a passenger in a car that turned in the wrong driveway.

44 minutes ago

FILE - This image, contained in the indictment against former President Donald Trump, and partially...

Eric Tucker, Adriana Gomez Licon and Freida Frisaro

Judge in Trump’s classified documents case is expected to set a trial date during a crucial hearing

The federal judge overseeing the classified documents prosecution of Donald Trump is expected to set a trial date.

4 hours ago

The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced February 29 that Heritage Store Hydrogen Peroxide ...

John Towfighi, CNN

Mouthwash recalled nationwide over poisoning risk

One brand of hydrogen peroxide mouthwash is being recalled nationwide for posing a potential poisoning risk for children.

14 hours ago

NORTH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 10: Ballots are processed by an election worker at the Clark Cou...

Gabe Stern, Associated Press/Report for America

Nevada county election official in charge of controversial 2022 hand-count plan resigns

A Nye County spokesperson says top elections official Mark Kampf is resigning.

15 hours ago

Protesters gathered outside the Alabama State House in Montgomery in the wake of the IVF ruling on ...

Devon M. Sayers, Shirin Faqiri and Eric Levenson, CNN

Alabama House and Senate approve bills aimed at protecting in vitro fertilization after personhood ruling

The Alabama House and Senate each passed bills Thursday aimed at protecting in vitro fertilization treatments .

19 hours ago

FILE: Vivint Doorbell Camera (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)...

Haleluya Hadero, AP Business Writer

Some doorbell cameras sold on Amazon and other online sites have major security flaws, report says

Consumer Reports says some doorbell cameras sold by Amazon and other online retailers have security flaws that could allow bad actors to view footage from the devices or control them completely.

20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Why families applying for financial aid may initially have trouble with the new FAFSA