ED, FAFSA Math and the New Inflation Tables: An Analysis of the Impact on SAI, Pell and Students

Melissa Kircher
March 14, 2024

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been just over a month since the Department of Education announced that its FAFSA math, for deciding how much aid a student should get, was wrong. Since then, new SAI data tables were released to properly adjust for inflation and Meadow updated our NPC accordingly. Here’s a quick reminder of what changed:

  1. The Income Protection Allowance (IPA) increased for all families.
  2. The Asset Protection Allowance was removed for all marital statuses and ages.
  3. The Employment Expense Allowance maximum increased.
  4. The Business/Farm Net Worth Adjustment tables were updated for all families.

Once our NPC was updated with the new SAI tables, we automatically recalculated all saved estimates. Our team reviewed the pre and post inflationary table adjustment data to see how these changes affected the students who have used our calculators since January 1, 2024. 

The best news? As we hoped, more students became eligible for more aid. Pell eligibility increased by just over 7% and the average Pell Grant increased by $423. 

Examining the changes to the SAI numbers themselves, we divided pre-inflationary update estimates into two groups:

- Group 1: Students with an SAI below 12,500

- Group 2: Students with an SAI above 12,500

Group 1 saw an average decrease in SAI of 20-30% and Group 2 saw an average decrease of $4000-$5000.

Curious who was impacted the most? The biggest decrease in SAI was for independents with dependents and families with household income between 100,000 and 150,000.

Naturally, it’s not just Meadow who is closely examining the impact of the SAI changes. Institutions using the SAI Modeling tool from NASFAA compared EFC to SAI (with inflation) and shared results online (and celebrated the good news for students while lamenting the bad news for their budgets). They found an average drop of just over $4,000 SAI.

We know the last few months have been hard on all of the dedicated folks in higher ed financial aid offices across the country. To say our normally upbeat Meadow Price partners are “stressed” doesn’t even begin to cover it. We hope it’s encouraging to see that the recent SAI updates do seem to be having a positive outcome for students. More students being eligible for more aid means more of them will have access to higher education and that’s why we do what we do. 

As you (not so) patiently await the release of ISIRs (which are finally trickling in for some), we’re delighted to see how many of our partners have been directing students to their Net Price Calculators to get an accurate estimate of costs and aid while awaiting award letters. Every estimate we deliver is one more student that understands affordability and more strongly considers enrolling in one of the great institutions we partner with. Thank you for trusting us! 

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