Revolutionizing Financial Aid

The Overhaul of FAFSA and Its Impact on Students and Universities

Richmond, KY, April 16, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The U.S. Department of Education updated the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, widely known as the FAFSA, for all college applicants for the 2024-25 school year for the first time in over 40 years. Student services staff at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) have been helping students as well as parents navigate the new changes.

The updated FAFSA was created as an easier way for students and parents to apply for financial aid for higher education. Students who complete the FAFSA become eligible to gain federal grants, federal loans, state grants, school aid and other types of aid that require a FAFSA to be on file. While the FAFSA is centrally located on, the student has the opportunity to send the completed form to many different higher education institutions. The FAFSA adds federal loan and need-based aid to students’ financial aid packages. 

“There are certain types of guaranteed financial aid federally that are offered through FAFSA regardless of a student's financial need,” said Zac Lewis, EKU’s director of central student services. “Its primary focus is to essentially diagnose the student's financial need by comparing the student and family’s relevant contributors income and assets to produce a Student Aid Index, which is an indicator of how much financial need that student may have to attend college. Generally, the lower the number, the higher the need.”

According to Lewis, students who complete the FAFSA show strong indicators for retention and academic success. Even if students do not intend to use the financial aid awarded when completing the FAFSA, it can provide students with additional financial resources, such as grants, loans or scholarships. 

EKU offers several scholarships to students, some of which use the student need indicators from completed FAFSA applications. Some scholarships simply require a FAFSA on file for the student to be considered. Additionally, students who complete their FAFSA become eligible for Federal Work Study—opportunities for students to work on campus and gain hands-on experience in a variety of fields while completing their degrees. 

Several changes were made to the FAFSA form to better assist students and their families. The form is now more intuitive and guides applicants through only the questions that pertain to their situations instead of applicants having to fill out more than 100 questions on the original form. 

Additionally, the FAFSA will now be able to use information from the IRS to aid in completing the form. This will require students and their financial contributors to provide consent and approval in order for the IRS and FAFSA to work together.

“People are going to see and hear a lot about the changes for consent and approval when they do the FAFSA,” said Jessica Bailey, EKU assistant director of central student services. “That's where they are giving consent and approval for the government to have the IRS and the FAFSA talk directly to one another. It used to be sort of a one-way retrieval. Now it’s more of a conversation.”

Bailey explained the importance of approval on the new form, saying, “Students can't get as much financial aid if everybody who’s determined to be a contributor doesn't provide consent and approval.”

Another change made to the FAFSA form is the method by which financial need is measured. Instead of the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), the new FAFSA form measures the Student Aid Index or SAI. Before, the EFC began at 0, which represented the maximum financial need for a student and increased according to the student and family’s income and assets. Now, the SAI will indicate maximum financial need from 0 to -1500. The new range will also increase to match the student and the family’s income and assets. 

In summary, the key changes to the FAFSA include:

  • A more intuitive approach to students’ situations while filling out the form—some students would only need to answer as few as 18 questions.
  • Consent and approval will be required for the IRS to add financial information to the applicant’s form.
  • The Student Aid Index (SAI) is used as a means to measure financial aid, instead of the Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

“As we embrace the changes to FAFSA, we stand firm in our commitment to ensuring every student has access to higher education,” said EKU President David McFaddin. “Our dedicated experts on campus are equipped to guide students through these new changes to ensure that financial aid remains accessible and transparent. At EKU, affordability isn’t just a goal but a promise to every student.” 

Filling out the FAFSA requires students to create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. Prior to the changes, creating a student ID was relatively simple. However, Bailey suggests students and families be prepared for a more in-depth process when creating a FSA ID. The FSA IDs need to go through authentication since the FAFSA form connects to the IRS database. In some cases, this can take several business days once an ID has been requested.

Lewis said completing the form as early as possible ensures students are set up for financial aid success. According to Federal Student Aid, the form is now available for students to complete for the 2024-25 academic year. Some financial aid opportunities like state grants and some institutional scholarships, are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Incoming students who have never filled out the FAFSA and may need guidance can seek assistance from their school guidance counselor as well as the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority. EKU’s admissions office and Big E Central are also able to aid prospective students in filling out the FAFSA for the first time.  

EKU prioritizes affordability for all students to achieve their educational goals. EKU awarded more than $91 million in financial aid to students in 2022. Approximately 74% of undergraduate students at the university receive financial aid. Half of EKU’s freshman class are first-generation college students, and the university offers several resources to help students navigate unfamiliar college processes, like the FAFSA. EKU’s Big E Central has several virtual question-and-answer sessions and presentations about the changes for students. 


EKU's Big E Central

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