Why does FAFSA simplification feel so…complicated?

Amy Jenkins
March 2, 2023

Mark Twain famously said the coldest winter he ever spent was summer in San Francisco.  Financial Aid Directors across the country totally get the dichotomy as they grapple with another truth: FAFSA simplification is really complicated.

The FAFSA Simplification Act has good intentions, namely that it 

  • expands access to federal student aid through a revamped Pell Grant program so that more students are eligible 
  • removes the limit on lifetime loans
  • streamlines the FAFSA form so that more students complete it
  • outlines changes from the expected family contribution (EFC) to the student aid index (SAI) in order to better reflect the cost of college

But even with those good intentions - it is causing a number of headaches. 

To start with - there are a lot of changes to implement in a lot of places.  What makes this especially difficult is that it is unclear what all of those changes are and when they will be finalized.  Many of the changes are still in “draft” form while financial aid directors eagerly await confirmation.  And that’s not the only deadline people are worrying about.  According to Inside Higher Ed, the new FAFSA application might not be ready on October 1, the way it has been since 2016.  This means less time for students to complete it and less time for directors to do financial aid award packaging. 

The challenges don’t end there.  Financial Aid Directors across the country have a lot of concerns about what questions will be included, changed or removed…and how that impacts their ability to calculate aid.  Here are just a few we’ve collected:

  • Is there a summary of all the changes that isn’t pages and pages long?
  • Why do we need to allow for a negative SAI if it doesn’t help our neediest students?
  • What am I supposed to call housing and food expenses?  Is “Living Expenses” really the answer?
  • If the FAFSA doesn’t collect information about where a student will live (on or off campus) how can I appropriately calculate aid?
  • What do I do about the impact on siblings? Will this make college less affordable for families who have multiple kids in college
  • How do I deal with the Pell grant changes for part time students?  And what are those changes exactly?
  • How can I give students peace of mind? Can I guarantee to students that their aid will not decrease as a result of these changes?
  • Which students will be impacted by the new SAI?  Who will get more aid or less now? Who are the winners and losers here?

There is good news.  Meadow has your back.  Over the next few months we will answer as many of these questions as we can – in the simplest and most visual way possible.  When we say that as a company we are committed to simplifying the student financial experience from application to graduation we mean it.  And we know that to make it simpler for students it needs to start with making it simpler for universities. We are also excited that Meadow Price, our modern net price calculator, will soon be the first SAI compliant NPC out there.

Want to learn more? Email amy@meadowfi.com or subscribe to our blog for updates.

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