Beginning in 2024-25, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will see significant changes, particularly to the Expected Family Contribution metric. The changes seem poised to change the financial aid of many Wabash students, and the financial aid office is anticipating a heavy workload to combat this overhaul.

Courtesy of Communications and Marketing.

The recently-passed FAFSA Simplification Act will see student aid evaluated through the Student Aid Index (SAI) as opposed to the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) metric. Families with multiple children in college have previously been expected to receive more aid as a result, but this is no longer the case. Pell Grant access has been expanded for students across the country and the number of questions on the FAFSA has significantly decreased.

“The FAFSA formula is changing significantly,” said Director of Financial Aid at Wabash College Alex DeLonis. “The days of having your federal and state aid get calculated using an Expected Family Contribution number is coming to an end. Beginning in 2024-25, we will now use the Student Aid Index. Nationwide, we will see more students become eligible for Pell grants which is very positive. However, the new formula may result in some students losing federal and/or state aid eligibility. From what we see, the biggest negative impact to Wabash students is that the formula will no longer take into consideration how many family members in the household are attending college at the same time. A significant number of our students have siblings who are also enrolled in college, but that positive impact on the formula is going away.”

The goal of the FAFSA changes is to expand access to all students who desire to pursue higher education. Previously, drug convictions and failure to submit an application would have eliminated a student from receiving aid, but these regulations no longer apply to students in the 2023-24 academic year and beyond. These changes have been guided by college administrators and the Department of Education.

“I am currently on the NASFAA FAFSA Simplification Working Group,” said Delonis. “For the past three years, we have been giving feedback directly to Federal Student Aid as they have developed the new FAFSA. I have also been part of many advocacy groups to push the Department of Education to get us the answers we need in order to serve our students.

“We have also been using an SAI modeling tool provided by NASFAA, to do a deep dive into exactly how these changes will impact currently enrolled students,” added DeLonis. “In this tool, we can enter in our current students and see how their EFC differs from their SAI. This has been useful as we try to predict what impact this will have on our students. The ultimate goal is to hold students harmless to the FAFSA formula changes. Communication and education will be the key moving through the rest of the year. We plan to host several sessions for the Wabash community on the new FAFSA experience. We have also already started to update senior administrators, the board of trustees, faculty and staff.”

Wabash College students will see a combination of effects as these changes are enacted.

“We believe this will have a positive impact on enrollment going forward for incoming classes,” said DeLonis. “The expanded Pell grants will help us make a Wabash education even more affordable. The challenge will be working with currently enrolled students whose new SAI might be significantly different from their EFC despite having the same family income and circumstance.”

The true effect of these changes will only be measured once they are fully enacted, but until then, students, families and administrators will have to wait for more clarification.