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New FAFSA form simplifies application process, increases number of eligible students

January 23, 2024
<p>Computer science and engineering freshman, Nikit Parakh, works in a computer lab in the Engineering Building on Jan. 23, 2020.</p>

Computer science and engineering freshman, Nikit Parakh, works in a computer lab in the Engineering Building on Jan. 23, 2020.

Photo by Alyte Katilius | The State News

For the 2024-2025 school year, the U.S. Department of Education redesigned and simplified its Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, application forms to increase the number of undergraduate students who qualify for Pell Grants, which lowers their tuition costs.

In Michigan, 19,884 more students should gain eligibility for the Pell Grant and 38,031 more students are expected to receive the maximum grant award, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education. Pell Grant eligibility will be linked to family size and the federal poverty level.

The 2023 FAFSA form previously included 121 questions, according to the U.S Department of Education. Depending on their answers to other questions, now some students can skip at least 26 questions and other applicants will be able to fill out just 18 questions.

English freshman Sky Larson applied for FAFSA for Fall 2023. While Larson had no issues completing the form, she felt the experience was “lengthy and complex.”

“I think (I answered) around 100 (questions) or so for the entire application,” Larson said. “Most of them weren’t simple to answer either, so it took a few hours. I also got selected for verification, which made the process longer and much more complicated.”

“Answering as low as 18 questions would have been amazing,” Larson said. “I think it'd be much more motivating to complete sooner, rather than procrastinating, if I knew it'd be a simple, more efficient process.”

Games and interactive media sophomore Yusuf Nashif said that he had an easier time completing the FAFSA form last year, as he only answered around 30 to 40 questions.

While Nashif believes fewer questions will benefit many students, he also believes FAFSA could take other actions to make the application process less stressful.

“At the beginning, a lot of students wanted to sign up for it immediately, just to get it out of the way,” he said. “Too many students tried to apply at once, so they had to shut down their forms (and) made it accessible for only specific students in a specific time frame. They know students are going to apply anyway, so they need to be a bit better about their system.”

If more students will be able to apply in upcoming school years, then he hopes FAFSA can manage the increasing number of applications.

The U.S. Department of Education said that “for the approximately 300,000 students who are experiencing homelessness or are unable to obtain their parents’ income information … they will be able to complete the FAFSA form and receive a provisional eligibility calculation before needing to provide additional documentation.”

Veterinary nursing senior August Ellis only applied for FAFSA their freshman year, but they found difficulty navigating the process by themself.

“I probably wouldn’t have avoided it as much as I did,” Ellis said about FAFSA’s updates regarding students without parental help. “I think I put it off because it was stressful to approach, so I think I would have been more likely to try again the year after.”

Students graduating high school in 2023 or in subsequent years should take less than an hour to complete the FAFSA and learn if they’re eligible for the Michigan Achievement Scholarship, which can provide eligible students with up to $27,500. Michigan public university students may earn up to $5,500 per year for five years.

Governor Whitmer created the Michigan Achievement Scholarship in October 2022 to help lower the cost of college tuition along with other scholarship programs, such as Michigan Reconnect, Futures for Frontlines and MI Future Educator Fellowship.

Undergraduate students and their parents can complete the FAFSA by visiting the U.S. government’s Student Aid website.

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