The 2024-25 FAFSA is still not ready, which has a lot of financial aid leaders working their way through long to-do lists with limited information and more and more families wondering: how am I going to pay for college?
The situation is far from ideal.
Annually, around 20 million students complete the FAFSA to access crucial grants, scholarships, and loans. Jon Fansmith, a senior vice president at the American Council on Education (ACE), emphasized in a recent article that this delay could significantly impact college affordability and choices, affecting not only where students can attend but if they can attend at all.
A month post the customary October 1 FAFSA release, prospective students aiming for the 2024-25 academic year remain unable to complete the form, access their Student Aid Index (SAI), or approximate their potential expenses for their preferred colleges. The anticipated release in December lacks a confirmed date, exacerbating the uncertainty.
So, what steps can educational institutions take in such a predicament?
Net price calculators, implemented as part of the Higher Education Act, were designed to give students a sense of what they might pay for school after aid. While most schools use the federal template which only takes into account federal and state aid, many schools are taking a more personalized approach and providing a net price calculator that includes institutional and merit aid as well - ensuring students get a much more accurate estimate.
One issue? Most of these calculators are still using EFC to calculate aid.
Taking a step back, it is important to understand the difference between EFC and SAI.
EFC and SAI are both numbers that colleges use to figure out how much financial aid a student can get. EFC stands for Expected Family Contribution, and SAI stands for Student Aid Index.
EFC is based on a family's income and assets. SAI is based on a family's income, assets, and other factors, such as zip code and parents' education level.
In September we released a new version of our net price calculator which enables schools to estimate aid based on a student’s SAI. Our tool provides colleges with data showcasing calculated EFC and SAI for students, aiding in identifying patterns and making necessary adjustments. Additionally, we offer comprehensive support materials including an answer guide and glossary to assist students and families throughout this process. The FAFSA may not be ready, but we are!
So back to that question: what can a school do?
Our recommendation: Encourage students to utilize your institution’s net price calculator to obtain estimates and initiate planning while awaiting the FAFSA. Collaborate closely with your net price calculator partner to ensure accuracy, currency, and the integration of SAI calculations. Ready for this transformation? Reach out and we can get you set up quickly!