Understanding the FAFSA Simplification Act

The FAFSA Simplification Act actually does simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form. For most people, it will go from more than 100 questions down to 36. As anyone who has filled out a FAFSA knows, this is very good news.

The new form will probably not be available until December 2023. In the meantime, here are a few things we do know about the revised FAFSA rules for 2023.

Need some information about all types of financial aid for new students? We’ve got you covered.


Changes to FAFSA

A December Open Date

In the past, the FAFSA form has opened on October 1 of your student’s senior year in high school. This year the new Better FAFSA probably won’t open until December. Federal Student Aid (FSA) hasn’t released a specific date yet. There will be announcements when it’s official.

Shorter FAFSA Form

There’s a new system that allows the FAFSA to pull information directly from your income tax return. You don’t have to go hunting for your past returns anymore. You just need to give your consent for the transfer of data.

Changes to Your Family Contribution

The New Student Aid Index

A major goal of the FAFSA Simplification Act is to make the amount of aid your student is eligible for more transparent and predictable. In the past, the FAFSA determined aid using the Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). It was a complicated process even for financial aid specialists. Families often had no idea how much they could receive until they got their financial aid offer from the college.

The new Student Aid Index (SAI) is streamlined and better defined. Under certain circumstances, low-income students can be eligible for need-based aid using only the family’s adjusted gross income taken from their income tax return. The new SAI streamlines procedures for students with more complicated income sources as well.

Families with more than one member in college

Under the old Estimated Family Contribution system, if you had multiple family members in college at the same time, your EFC was split between them. Under the new Student Aid Index, the Better FAFSA will still ask the question, but it doesn’t consider the number of family members in college in its calculations.

For example and using some very simplified numbers: Under the old FAFSA, if your EFC was $3,000 and you had three eligible family members enrolled in college at the same time, each enrolled student could have an EFC of $1,000. This would have increased the amount of federal aid they could receive. Now in the Better FAFSA, each of the three will have an SAI of $3,000, decreasing the amount of federal aid.

Changes to Pell Grants

“The federal Pell Grant program is the single largest source of federal grant aid supporting postsecondary education students,” according to The Congressional Research Service (August 2022). These grants are need-based, and you don’t have to pay them back. Your FAFSA form determines your Pell Grant amount.

Pell Grants will now be calculated using the SAI or under certain circumstances, your gross Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) from your tax return. This should simplify eligibility.

The SAI and AGI levels for aid have also been adjusted and should result in more students qualifying for more Pell Grant money. Since the new form is shorter and simpler, there’s no excuse not to apply. In fact, it’s always best to file your FAFSA each year whether you think you qualify or not.

Changes for special or unusual circumstances

Under the new simplified FAFSA, financial aid administrators at colleges must let families know that students who apply for aid can pursue adjustments based on their family and financial circumstances. This process is known as professional judgment. In certain circumstances, it can extend to declared disasters, emergencies or economic downturns. To request a professional judgment, please contact your Enrollment Coach.

Changes can mean delays, so file early

As with any new system, there may be a few bumps in the beginning. Filing early is the best way to have the time you need to get into the new system and submit your FAFSA.

The new simplified FAFSA form will be shorter and require much less effort on your part to fill out. But, if at any point you have questions, the TSTC Enrollment Coaches are ready with answers.

Federal Pell Grant program

Federal Pell Grants are awarded based on your financial need, the cost of attendance at your school, and other criteria.

To apply, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) using TSTC’s Title IV School Code, 003634. You must complete the FAFSA every academic year. The central processing service will send you a Student Aid Report (SAR) or an electronic SAR acknowledgment within three to five days after you submit your application. The SAR indicates your eligibility for a Federal Pell Grant (first undergraduate degree seekers only) and identifies your EFC. The information on your SAR will be sent to TSTC electronically.

The FAFSA is a need-analysis tool that estimates your family’s ability to pay for your college education. An Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is determined by a uniform federal formula, using student and parent income and asset information provided on the FAFSA. The student and parent income and asset information will still be considered, but the calculation will differ.  “Need” is determined by taking the cost of attending TSTC for one year and subtracting the EFC.

The best way to apply for federal financial aid is to complete the FAFSA online.  Students should begin filing the FAFSA the year before attending TSTC (senior year- for those coming directly from high school). Starting with the 24/25 FAFSA, students can start filing the FAFSA in December 2023, online only. Each year thereafter, the FAFSA should be available on October 1st.   

You may be required to turn in additional documentation to your Enrollment Coach before you can receive your financial aid offer.

Before applying for the FAFSA, please review the items you need to complete the application.

Two tax credits that college students should study up on.

If you have an unusual circumstance regarding your dependency status or a change in income there are options that are available.

A TSTC student works with a five-axis machining center during a recent lab session. (Photo courtesy of TSTC.)

Request for Dependency Override – have to apply for FAFSA

Financial Aid applicants who do not meet the definition of an independent student, as defined by the U.S. Department of Education, who believe they are independent should request a Dependency Override from the financial aid office. The Higher Education Act allows an aid administrator to make dependency overrides on a case-by-case basis for students with unusual circumstances. If the administrator determines that an override is appropriate he/she must document the unusual circumstance, however none of the conditions listed below, singly or in combination qualify as unusual circumstances or merit a dependency change:

  • Parents refuse to contribute to the student’s education;
  • Parents are unwilling to provide information on the FAFSA or for verification;
  • Parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes;
  • Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency.

To make a request for a Dependency Override, please call 844-341-5841.

Request for Special Circumstances – have to apply for FAFSA

TSTC understands that everybody’s financial situation is unique and that things can change from year to year. If you have experienced a major life change since you filed your FAFSA, we may be able to help you get additional funding. So, if you or your parent (if applicable) have experienced a loss or reduction in income, separation or divorce, death of a parent or spouse, have become disabled and/or have a loss of variable benefit (child support, social security, etc.) after the FAFSA was filed, please contact the Financial Aid office at 844-341-5841.  Please note that approval of this appeal does not guarantee you will receive additional aid.

Annual Maximum Awards

The maximum scheduled Pell Grant award for the 2023–24 award year is $7,395 for full-time students.

The maximum amount can change each award year and depends on program funding. The amount you get will depend on your:

  • Financial need
  • Costs to attend school. Please see tuition page.
  • Status as a full-time or part-time student
  • Plans to attend school for a full academic year or less

Key concepts and definitions

Annual grant limits are tied to the completion of an academic year. TSTC’s definition of an academic year is 30 weeks, during which we expect a full-time student to complete a minimum of 24 credit hours.

Students are awarded 50% of their scheduled Federal Pell award each semester.

Beginning with Summer 2018, Pell grant-eligible students can receive up to 150% of their scheduled Pell award each year. If you enrolled full-time (12 or more hours) for both fall and spring, you must be enrolled in at least 6 hours during the Summer to receive a Federal Pell Grant.

You may receive a Federal Pell Grant for up to twelve full-time semesters or six years.

You can check your remaining lifetime eligibility here.  Log in using your FSA ID and view your Lifetime Eligibility Units (LEU) on the Financial Aid Review page.

Pell grant funds will only be awarded for courses:

  • That are in your degree plan.
  • For which you have registered.
  • In which you have participated before the census date for that class.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 grants an automatic zero EFC for the Federal Pell Grant Program to Federal Pell Grant-eligible students whose parent or guardian was a member of the Armed Forces and died in Iraq or Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001.

Student in a TSTC hoodie is using a computer and smiling happily.

AdobeStock 263903668 scaled - Grants

Return of Title IV funds

If you receive federal financial aid and stop attending or withdraw from all courses at or before 60 percent of the term is completed, you must repay all or some of the federal aid you received. More Information


Federal Pell Grant recalculation policy

We award Pell grants based on projected full-time enrollment status. The Pell Grant amounts are then prorated based on your enrollment level during each term. We use your most recent census date for all classes as the enrollment lock date for the semester. Pell awards will be issued based on the enrollment level calculated at that time. Learn More

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