Navigating FAFSA Simplification: Concerns, Ideas, and How to Thrive from the CASFAA Conference

Amy Jenkins
October 17, 2023

Last Thursday, CASFAA's 50th anniversary celebration lit up the ballroom with lively dancing, but the excitement didn't stop there. The very next afternoon, financial aid leaders converged to learn from Christina Tangalakis, Ed.D, FAAC® and Marvin Smith and tackle the transition from EFC to SAI and all things FAFSA simplification. 

As people asked questions and shared ideas a theme started to emerge: that we get by with a little help from our friends.  And in that spirit we wanted to share both the concerns of the group, as well as the great ideas that came out of it.  And while I normally love symmetry, check out how much longer our ideas column is than our worries one - that room was full of so many great ideas!


Student Experience

  • Students and families having trouble with the FSA ID
  • Unintended barriers for mixed status families
  • Opening and alignment of California Dream Act Application (CADAA)


  • Getting the right information to students, staff and faculty at the right time
  • Updating the website 


  • No longer feeling like an expert, cannot answer everyone’s questions
  • Increased pressure to learn quickly; even harder for people newer to the profession
  • Understaffed IT departments being able to keep up with the required system changes

Software and Systems

  • Software companies will not implement the changes quickly enough.  With the information delays, it is hard to get ahead of the work
  • Accurate SAI calculations and modeling (talk to us about our NPC and how it can help!)
  • Ability to upload new ISIRs
  • Missing something - so much to do what are we forgetting?


Student Experience:

  • Consider the Middle Class Scholarship (MCS) to support students who may have lost Pell eligibility due to the shift from EFC to SAI
  • Do outreach to current students with 2 or more in college and ask if that will be the same in 24-25.  If so, support with an appeal
  • Offer Professional Judgements to support students who need it (but don’t advertise it)
  • Set aside funds for returning students and get ready for an influx of appeals
  • Share info with your leadership / admin team to strategize on retaining students whose aid eligibility may have changed
  • Run FSA ID workshops on campus, in high schools or online starting now - the process can be confusing for students
  • Offer assistance with the FAFSA when it is ready


  • Create a toolkit of communications materials for continuing and newly enrolled students (we ♥️ that idea - check out our free ones here!) as well as the resources from NASFAA
  • Inform new students about upcoming changes and guide them through acquiring an FSA ID.
  • Collaborate with high school counselors to drive FSA ID registrations.
  • Create presentations explaining major changes and share with staff and counselors
  • Establish an internal website explaining changes and providing essential information.
  • Run a campaign for new students that encourages them to get their FSA ID alongside encouraging applications
  • Send out newsletters geared at both students and staff with updates about the process and changes
  • Develop a toolkit of resources for both new and continuing students.


  • Mentally prepare your staff for the changes - join webinars together and discuss what you are learning
  • Strategize for busier periods and ask your team to plan PTO around those times - busy times this year may be different than in year’s past!
  • Create a task force on campus - meet regularly to discuss what you are learning from ED and what you are working on in terms of updates and changes as a result
  • Check out this guide from NCAN: Better FAFSA for Mixed Status Families: Top 10 Things to Know So You Can Prepare

Software and Systems

  • Look for ways to automate and tag, especially for students selected for verification
  • Indicate housing intent with a flag in our SIS 
  • Reach out to vendors and partners proactively

In times of change, it's evident that support from friends and colleagues is invaluable. Embrace these ideas and tackle FAFSA simplification with confidence!

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