2024-25 FAFSA Simplification FAQ Best Practices and Guidance

Compiled by SHEEO, NASSGAP • Last updated 3/26/2024

Completion of a paper vs. online FAFSA

Most students should complete the online FAFSA if possible, as online applications will be processed first. If students cannot complete the online application (for instance, if a parent has difficulty creating an FSA ID— that is, a Federal Student Aid ID) and the student must meet priority filing deadlines for state grant programs, they should complete a paper FAFSA. Students who do not need to meet state grant priority filing deadlines should wait until the online application is available. If students who completed a paper FAFSA are later able to complete an online application, they are encouraged to do so if they need to have their application processed quickly. The online application will overwrite the paper application and will be processed along with other online applications. What is currently unclear is whether the online filing date will overwrite the paper application filing date.

Student’s family size

Students and parents should answer “Yes” to the opportunity to review family size, as this field is often defaulting to 2 or 3 (depending on the number of parents), regardless of actual family size. All families should review and adjust the family size as needed.

FAFSA corrections

The opportunity to correct online FAFSA applications will likely be unavailable until the first half of April. State partners can hold FASFA corrections events to assist students with submitting corrections. Corrected FAFSAs will retain the original submission date and will show an updated transaction date. Corrections should not impact priority filing deadlines.

Contributors without an SSN

The Department of Education (ED) has resolved the issues for contributors with no SSN, allowing them to access a student’s FAFSA and contribute to the form. Users without an SSN will need to manually enter financial information, even if they have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Contributors without an SSN are encouraged to enter an ITIN, if applicable, so that ED can retrieve federal tax information (FTI) through the direct data exchange with the IRS once this remaining issue has been resolved. A student’s FAFSA will be automatically reprocessed as needed. 

Another outstanding issue with inviting contributors with no SSN stems from mismatches in the personally identifiable information (PII) that is entered on the invitation and PII in a contributor’s account. Users are encouraged to ensure that all PII match exactly prior to extending an invitation and to wait for a final fix before inviting contributors.

All contributors to the FASFA must be verified, including those submitting a paper application. Contributors with an SSN will be matched with TransUnion by name, address, and date of birth. Expired identification documents are not accepted by FSA as verification of identity. If a contributor needs to obtain a case number to verify their identity, they are advised to do one of the following:

  • Call 1-800-4-FED-AID and speak to the Help Desk.
  • Chat with Aidan the Owl regarding “LOGIN (FSA ID) ISSUES” and ask to “TALK TO A REPRESENTATIVE.”
  • Email IDVerification@ed.gov.

Receipt of Institutional Student Information Records (ISIRs)

The Department began transmitting ISIRs in mid-March and will continue to send batches to institutions and states as they work through the backlog. Online forms are prioritized, followed by paper forms. ED anticipates that it will take roughly two additional weeks to process all applications that have been submitted to date. Any new applications will be processed in the order they were submitted after processing has been completed. States and institutions should ensure they are able to receive ISIRs by checking that their FTI-SAIG mailbox is ready and that updated SAIG software has been installed. 

FAFSA College Support Strategy

The Department announced on February 5 that it will provide personnel, funding, resources, and technology to assist with the completion of the FAFSA and the packaging of financial aid. This commitment includes the deployment of federal personnel to assist under-resourced colleges with preparing for and processing FAFSA forms, setting up a concierge email service to answer questions and provide consultations, providing funding for technical assistance and support, and working with vendors and state systems to develop open-source tools for receiving ISIRs and packaging financial aid quickly.

Signature issues

Some families report that signatures have been inadvertently dropped from the application. They are subsequently receiving messages that their Student Aid Index (SAI) was not calculated, and they are ineligible for federal financial aid. Families are advised to share the diagnostics (i.e., browser type, time and date, application ID, screen shots) surrounding this issue with FSA. A fix is currently unavailable, but students will be able to make corrections to their applications.

Free and reduced lunch (FRL) box

Students and parents should only check the “free and reduced lunch” box for federal benefits received (Q18 and Q36) if they are financially eligible (i.e., they qualify financially for FRL regardless of whether they are in a school district with universal FRL).

Q8: Are the student’s parents unwilling to provide their information?

The correct answer to Q8 for most students is “No.” Checking “Yes” will exclude students from Pell Grants and most other federal student aid. Students will not be able to correct their answer until after the ISIR has been sent to their school(s) and is eligible for corrections. It has been suggested to FSA that they change the wording of the question and that they reach out to each student who checked “Yes” and ensure that their answer is correct. Until these changes are made, individuals assisting students with completing the FAFSA are advised to ensure that students answer this question correctly.

Email that FSA ID information was changed

Families are receiving emails indicating that their FSA ID information has changed after every time they log in to their account, even though no ID information was changed. This email is intentional as a security feature to alert users to a login. FSA is aware that the wording of the email may be confusing or concerning to some users.

Use of FTI by designated entities

A “dear colleague” letter with guidance on the use of federal tax information (FTI) by designated entities (such as state agencies) is forthcoming.

Asset protection allowance tables

In the January 30 update to the SAI guide, all asset protection allowance tables for students and parents were reduced to $0. More information on why this change was made is available from NASFAA.

Miscellaneous technical glitches

Additional known technical glitches or general issues that are awaiting a fix include:

  • Requiring one parent/family member to manually enter data, while the second parent’s/family member’s information is automatically entered.
  • Asking for a second parent’s information, even if not applicable.
  • Parent invitation links not bringing parent to the correct page.
  • Completion/verification email upon submission of the FAFSA does not indicate the FAFSA year (for students with FAFSA high school graduation requirements).
  • “What to expect next” page does not display fully on the screen and users must scroll down to read the full page.
  • Standard “in review” message does not elaborate on what “in review” means or when this status is expected to change.

Best practices from peer states

  • All events and documents are offered to families in English and Spanish. Staff are on hand to ensure that FAFSA translations to Spanish are interpreted correctly.
  • State agencies/organizations are conducting training sessions at least monthly (ideally bi-weekly) on known FAFSA issues. These sessions also allow staff the opportunity to hear what is happening at schools.
  • Compiling all the known glitches, technical issues, and updates and sharing to Facebook and Instagram (Get2College in Mississippi).
  • Consider partnering with the governor’s office to write letters to high school seniors telling them not to be discouraged by the delays and to complete a FAFSA (Washington Student Achievement Council).
  • Communicating with institutions to ensure that tuition bills are not sent before financial aid packages have been finalized and awarded.
  • Extending deposit deadlines, state grant priority filing deadlines, and institution admission deadlines.
  • Reviewing IT needs in financial aid offices to ensure they are equipped to process FAFSA data immediately once available (State University of New York).

Additional external resources