If you’ve been keeping up with the FAFSA Simplification Act, then you might be realizing that this act is implementing A LOT of changes! Since we already covered three fascinating subjects of the Simplification Act these last few months, we want to explore a little more on how the Pell Grant will be expanding access even further (🎉hooray!).
But first, what even IS the Pell Grant?
This is a need based federal financial aid grant that’s awarded to undergraduate students to pay for college. Unlike loans, these bad boys do NOT need to be repaid (📢free money alert)! For eligibility, students MUST complete the FAFSA.
Now that we know what the Pell Grant is, let’s dig deeper into how the FAFSA Simplification Act intends to expand access so that more students can qualify for this super awesome grant!
Four changes that will Expand Access to the Pell Grant
The Formula That Calculates Pell Grant Eligibility Is Changing
We wrote a little bit about this in our blog, SAI Versus EFC: Understanding the New Student Aid Index. The most significant change is the new formula’s exclusion of family members attending college at least half-time. This ultimately will implement a separate eligibility criterion for students by eliminating this data from the calculation all together. This was designed to make the SAI calculation more equitable for more students.
Government Program Data is Automatically Integrated
Think Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), etc. If a student or a family are receiving these types of benefits already, then they most likely qualify for a need-based program like the Pell Grant. Previously, a student had to manually add this information to the FAFSA, not anymore. It’ll be added to the FAFSA automatically.
Some FAFSA Questions have been Removed
The biggest one we want to reference here is the Drug Related Offenses question. If you marked YES that you were convicted in the past, students were automatically disqualified from receiving the Pell Grant. No more! The question has been eliminated completely. If you want to read about more changes to the form itself, check out our other blog from last month, Incoming: FIVE Changes to the FAFSA.
Automating Income Data Retrieval
Possibly a hot topic for some, but the FAFSA Simplification Act will be automating a student and/or parent’s income onto the application. This one requires a little more explanation!
Currently, reporting income on the FAFSA can be entered manually (and therefore skipped), or students and parents can choose to import their tax data directly onto the FAFSA form from an IRS import link (you click a link, it sends you to the IRS, you confirm, and the IRS fills in the FAFSA income questions for you).
The change comes with the manual data entry part. That’s basically been eliminated, and we’d argue for good reason because I mean, hey – we aren’t robots! 🤖 If I’m typing in some digits rather quickly, I might add an extra zero and not know it!
Now, the FAFSA will force users to utilize what was formally called the IRS Data Import tool (now known as FUTURE Act Direct Data Exchange [FA-DDX]). Essentially if you filed taxes, the IRS would send your tax data to the FAFSA, so you are no longer manually entering that data. You have to consent to use this option. So if you refuse consent, you’re not going to be eligible for the Pell Grant, or really… Any Financial Aid for that matter…
But how does that expand Pell Grant access you ask? Manual data entry mistakes! We’ve seen it and not everybody catches it!
Call FAS if You’re Confused
We really only touched on some of the highlights here, but if you find some cool tidbit on the internet that you need clarification on, or the Department of Education dropped a hot Press Release that you don’t understand at all, reach out! We’re following this closely, and we’ve got all hands-on deck to help you through it!