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  • Sydney Umstead, Asst. News Editor

The FAFSA will look different this year: Here’s how

Prospective students face changes to FAFSA

By: Sydney Umstead, News Editor

Financial Aid department members Kevin Smith, James Nowack and Jim Ayers reached out to The Griffin for a story in regards to the upcoming changes to the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). An email disclosing the updates will be sent to the student body within the next few weeks. 

The FAFSA will see  a series of changes that will impact the financial aid preparation process for the 2024-25 academic year. These updates affect all students and may also impose some difficulties for prospective applicants. 

Following the announcement, a web-page will be created for the student body and prospective students. This may feature six discussion points which center around: the delayed deadline, the need to apply for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) directly, replacement of the Estimated Family Contribution with a new service called the Student Aid Index, a new contributor feature, direct data exchange and changes to aid distribution calculation. All of this is through the FAFSA Simplification Act. 

Later Application Window 

Typically, the FAFSA application opens in October. However, Associate Director of Enrollment and Financial Aid James Nowack discussed how the application this year will end up opening around late December. The Financial Aid department was made aware on Nov. 15 through the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). Nowack cited this as a potential problem, since “students need time, especially prospective students.” 

This change will impact current students less than those just beginning their college application process. Nowack explained that, in the past, students who “had all their ducks in a row” could apply immediately and receive their offered package by February. With a later opening, “this year is going to be tight,” as Nowack explained. 

This is in part because throughout the process when deciding aid, there has to be time in between to wait for the DOE to communicate the decisions established by the FAFSA. 

However, the Financial Aid department assured that they are “working to make sure that [the University] doesn’t fall short of [its] goals” in terms of bringing in new students. Nowack will also be in attendance at the African American Cultural Center for their event on Nov. 18. The Community Financial Aid Workshop will discuss these changes and help 11th- and 12th-grade students with the FAFSA process. 

Due to this, Assistant Vice President and Director of Students Records and Financial Services Kevin Smith explained that Canisius will also need to “change all of our systems.” Furthermore, the updates to the FAFSA are a “learning curve for institutions.” 

It was discussed that the DOE may not be entirely committed to the Dec. 31 deadline. 

The TAP application 

While the FAFSA will see a later season, the New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) application still opened up on Nov. 1. Nowark mentioned that there may be “complicated schools of thought,” as of when students should now apply for TAP. However, he went on to say that there may be “no need to rush” the process. Students will also now need to apply to TAP directly. 

The Pell Grant 

The Pell Grant correlates to need-based funding. By pushing back the FAFSA deadline, it was explained that this allows for more range for the Pell Grant to operate in, as it is possible that the original system was broken. Nowack stated, “That’s the way I think,” in regards to the new late Dec. deadline. 

There is the potential that with the new system, the grant could increase students' financial aid by $7,000. Work-studies and other forms of aid would change along with this. Smith stated that this gives “access to more families.” In an article for 2WGRZ, Jeff Boron, a certified college planning specialist stated, “The new system and the new rules will award about 15% more people a Pell Grant than we’ve had in the past.” 

Furthermore, “What’s happening with the system is it’s really benefiting some of those families at the lower income scale who are now going to be eligible for a Pell Grant where in the past they weren't.” 

Student Aid Index 

The Student Aid Index (SAI) will now replace the Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). Nowack cited this as being “the biggest one” in terms of all the changes that have been made. The allocation of this will mean “financial need just got cut in half.”

Students that have siblings who are also attending college saw the money divided between each member. The new system for the 2024 to 2025 year and beyond will no longer factor this into the SAI calculation.

 However, Nowack mentioned that “we are committed to closing any gaps” in order to help navigate this change alongside the student body. To do this, Canisius is looking at creating a sibling grant, which would be a grant directly from the institution. 

The Federal Student Aid website addressed the SAI as being “an eligibility index number that a college’s or career school’s financial aid office uses to determine how much federal student aid the student would receive if the student attended the school.” 

In the past, the lowest EFC that was possible was 0: the lowest SAI has been determined to be negative 1,500. It was explained that this may be a way to open the bottom up. 

Adding Contributors and Data Exchange

While students were once able to submit their FAFSA by just having their parents fill in the “Parent Section,” this will no longer be a possibility. Nowack stated, “Students can only control the student section.” Smith added that “each person has to sign in as them.” 

This could prove tricky during the application process, as the changes to the IRS data retrieval exchange will also come into play. The system that now will be put into place has been titled Direct Data Exchange (DDE). As 2WGRZ reported, this reduces the number of questions listed on the FAFSA to 50, after previously having 100 questions. 

There will no longer be the option to manually enter data into the system. This means that the contributors to the FAFSA will have to authenticate the Federal Tax Information (FTI) by using the DDE.

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