FAFSA Simplification

The FAFSA Simplification Act passed by Congress in 2020 represents a significant overhaul of federal student aid. As a result of the various updates, families will see changes to both the student and parent experience, included but not limited to:

  • Changes to the aid formula
  • Less questions
  • More automated and synced systems
  • New terminology
  • Increased Pell Grant eligibility

Getting Started

The Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid soft-launched the FAFSA on December 31, 2023, and it is currently availably 24/7. Students can start the FAFSA now, but should gather information, prepare materials and reference known issues before getting started.

  1. Create an FSA ID for the student and at least one contributor/parent. You will need a social security number (SSN) (if applicable) and an email address to create an FSA ID. Watch How to Create an FSA ID for more detailed instructions.
  2. Complete the student section of your FAFSA. You will answer demographic and income questions for yourself (not your parent). You will also need to provide information about your contributor (including name, SSN, email address) and the FAFSA will ‘invite’ to your contributor to complete your FAFSA. Watch Understand and Prepare FAFSA form Contributors for more detailed instructions.
  3. Your contributor will receive an email ‘invite’ to complete their section of the FAFSA. Once they log-in to the FAFSA (using their own FSA ID information), they will complete their sections of the FAFSA and submit the application.

New Terminology

The new FAFSA introduces many terms and processes. Familiarize yourself with these new terms and changes.

  • Consent

    A signed acknowledgement by contributors (student/parent) that allows the FAFSA to access the contributors’ Federal Tax Information (FTI). Consent to use FTI is mandatory for all contributors. While a FAFSA can be submitted without contributor consent, the FAFSA will be rejected and considered invalid until all required contributors provide consent. Students with invalid FAFSA’s are not eligible for federal student aid. Students who are unable to obtain parental consent should schedule an appointment to meet with a financial aid counselor as soon as possible.

  • Direct Data Exchange (DDX)

    A process that automatically imports U.S. income tax return data to the FAFSA, eliminating the need for the applicant to self-report most income. Unlike the former IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), DDX is required for U.S. tax filers and is not optional. Families will not be able to view or edit data imported through DDX. See FAQs for more information about DDX.

  • FAFSA Submission Summary

    This is a summary document you receive after completing the FAFSA, formerly known as the Student Aid Report (SAR). The FAFSA Submission Summary may be requested by other organizations such as outside scholarships organizations.

  • Federal Tax Information (FTI)

    Information that is retrieved directly from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). There are strict limitations on the access and use of FTI under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) and an individual’s approval/consent is required for the exchange of FTI.

  • Student Aid Index (SAI)

    The calculation used to determine financial aid has been updated and the Student Aid Index (SAI) has replaced the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Unlike the EFC, the SAI can now be as low as $-1,500 vs. $0. See FAQs for more information.

Changes to Aid Formula

The new FAFSA made changes to the formula used to determine financial aid eligibility. Below are the main components of the formula that have changed.

  • Business Assets

    Old: Families only had to report the value of large businesses (those with more than 100 employees). The value of small businesses was excluded.

    New: The value of all businesses (including but not limited to, Schedule C, 1065, 1120, 1120S, K-1) must now be reported as assets on the FAFSA . When asked to report business assets, report the net value (market value of a business minus debt against the business).

  • Children in College

    Old: Families would report the total number of children in their household who were enrolled in college at least half-time. This typically reduced the individual student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

    New: The number of family members enrolled in college will still be asked on the FAFSA, but it will no longer be used to determine aid eligibility.

  • Child Support Received

    Old: Child support received during the tax year (January – December) would be reported as untaxed income.

    New: Child support received during the tax year will be reported as an asset and not as income.

  • Custodial Parent Definition

    Old: The custodial parent was the parent the student lived with the most in the 12 months prior to completing the FAFSA.

    New: The contributing parent is the parent who provided the greater portion of the student’s financial in the 12 months prior to completing the FAFSA. Watch Who is a Contributor on the 2024-25 FAFSA for more guidance.

  • Family Size

    Old: The Household Size was the total number of people living in the parent(s) household if the parent(s) provided more than 50% of that person’s support.

    New: The Family Size definition has changed to align with the IRS definition of dependents. A dependent student’s family size will include themselves, their parent(s), and any dependents/people supported by the parent(s) only if the parent(s) can claim them as a dependent on a U.S. tax return.


  • Farm Assets

    Old: Family farms were excluded from the aid calculation and only large farms were reported.

    New: The value of all farms (including family farms) is now considered an asset on the FAFSA. When asked to report farm assets, report the net value (market value of the farm minus the debt against the farm). For family farms, exclude the value of the primary residence.

  • Pell Grant Eligibility

    Old: The Pell Grant was based on the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). A student with an EFC of $0 would receive the maximum Pell Grant ($7,395 in 2023-24).

    New: Pell Grant eligibility will be based on a student’s dependency status, parent marital status for dependent students, adjusted gross income (AGI), poverty level, state of residence, and enrollment status.

Impact to Pitzer Aid

While the updates to the FAFSA may also result is changes to federal and state eligibility for some students, we anticipate that population to be small and for the impact to be minimal, Pitzer will make every effort to minimize the impact to students as a result of Simplification.

However, please note that for many families aid eligibility (federal, state and Pitzer), is subject to change every year. Each year, students must re-apply for aid by our established deadlines; need-based scholarships are not automatically renewed.

Changes to your family’s circumstances may affect your eligibility from year-to-year. The following factors can cause changes to your aid:

  • Parent income increasing from 2021 taxes to 2022 taxes
  • Parent assets increasing
  • Parent marrying/remarrying
  • Changes to your household Size
  • Changes to your sibling’s college enrollment (i.e. graduating from undergrad being half-time)
  • Student income increasing
  • Student assets increasing

The Office of Financial Aid is here to provide transparent and clear information. If you have any questions or concerns about general changes to financial aid eligibility as well as changes due to Simplification, we encourage you to request an appointment to meet with a financial aid counselor.


  • I made an error on my FAFSA, how do I update it?

    Currently, the FAFSA is not available to make edits for updates or mistakes. If you made a mistake on your FAFSA send an email to [email protected] and let us know that the what the error was as well as the correct information. We will add that information to your file until the FAFSA corrections feature is available.

  • The FAFSA won't let me update my income, what do I do?

    Unlike the former IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), families cannot view or edit information imported through Direct Data Exchange (DDX). If your 2022 U.S. tax return had unusual sources of income (such as rollovers), please submit a letter of explanation along with your other financial aid materials so we may review your circumstances. For rollovers, please also provide a copy of your 1099-R forms.

  • My parent refuses to provide consent. What do I do?

    All contributors must provide consent for the FAFSA to use Federal Tax Information (FTI). Without consent from all contributors, the FAFSA is considered invalid. While we can still review your eligibility for Pitzer aid, we would not be able to review your eligibility for federal/state aid without a valid FAFSA. Providing consent does not obligate a contributor to pay or be responsible for college costs. Providing consent is solely meant to allow the FAFSA to retrieve tax data directly from the IRS. If you are struggling to obtain consent from your parent, please reach out to our office.

  • Will my financial aid be affected if my sibling is also in college?

    While the FAFSA will no longer count the number of children in college as part of the formula, Pitzer will continue to count the number of children in college based on our institutional policies. We collect information about your sibling’s enrollment from both the CSS Profile. We expect minimal changes to a student’s Pitzer grant eligibility as a result of this change. However, some students may see a change to their Subsidized Loan eligibility.

  • I lost my Pell Grant, what can I do?

    The new FAFSA changes the criteria for the Pell Grant. While more students will see an increase in Pell Grant eligibility, few students may see a loss of Pell Grant. Because Pitzer meets 100% of demonstrated need, most students who see a loss of their Pell Grant will likely see an increase in Pitzer need-based grant to supplement the loss the Pell Grant. If the changes to the FAFSA result in the loss of your Pell Grant, we encourage you to speak to one of our financial aid counselors to discuss options and your overall aid eligibility.

  • My SAI is less than $0, what does that mean?

    Students with an SAI less than $0 are automatically eligible for a maximum Pell Grant. The negative SAI is also an indicator that your financial need is higher than a student with a $0 SAI.