Changes to the 2011-2012 FAFSA
By Kathryn Knight
December 01, 2010
It’s December 1st, which has us thinking about the FAFSA already. The FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid and is made available every January 1st to potential and current college and graduate students. It’s the document that decides your need for student aid—not unlike the way your mother decided your fate when she picked your outfit for third grade picture day. Yikes!
This year, there are a few changes to the online and paper copy of the FAFSA. We’ve tracked them down to provide you with a preview so you can be FAFSA-ready in January:
The FAFSA web site has been completely redesigned to provide students and their parents with greater simplicity when beginning the application process. Formerly, applicants had to choose from a menu whether they wanted to begin, continue or make changes to an existing FAFSA. Now, once you log in, you’re taken directly to the beginning or wherever you left off in the application process.
If a student has completed the FAFSA but needs to make corrections, the process is much better. Now, students will go through an application that looks similar to the original FAFSA application, making it more user-intuitive.
The application itself has become a little smarter. Based on the information you fill out, the application skips over certain questions that do not apply to you. For example, if you’re a dependent student and your parents’ current assets (total balance of cash, savings and checking accounts, net worth of investments, and net worth of current businesses and/or investments farms) are greater than the asset protection allowance (calculated based off of the age and marital status of parents), then the new FAFSA registers your answer and allows you to skip over questions that wouldn’t apply to your situation.
The biggest change to the paper FAFSA application is the actual amount distributed. Before, the FAFSA was delivered in bulk shipments to schools, libraries and other student centers. Now, paper FAFSA applications will see a significant decrease due to an increased use of FAFSA on the Web. If you or your family needs a paper application, you can request up to three copies by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID.
- Legislation prompted a change in Zero EFC threshold from $30,000 to $31,000.
- The FAFSA on the Web Worksheet is the most crucial tool to successfully filling out the application. This form enables students and their parents to gather the information necessary to fill out the FAFSA as well as to know what types of questions they can expect. While the paper FAFSA application won’t be available unless specifically requested, the FAFSA on the Web Worksheet will be sent in bulk shipments to postsecondary schools, high schools, libraries and community facilities. The worksheet will also be available for download on studentaid.ed.gov, ifap.ed.gov or www.fafsa.gov.
- FAFSA will be releasing access to its practice site on December 12, 2010. This site allows students and parents to train themselves on the FAFSA application, providing users with a more comfortable navigation of the actual process after January 1st. The test site is fafsademo.test.ed.gov. Use the following login information:
User name: eddemo
See the Department of Education’s full documentation of FAFSA changes here.