2024-25 FAFSA Changes

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Before beginning to read about the new FAFSA, it is important to note that this launch has not been without problems.  The Federal Student Aid (FSA) office has provided institutions with a list of issue alerts to be aware of when you try to file the FAFSA.  We'll update this document periodically as FSA makes updates, so check back each time you access your FAFSA.

We recommend applicants take a look at this entire document before starting the FAFSA, but here are a few of the more likely items you might encounter (review the issue alerts for the full description of each issue and any recommended workarounds):

    • Messiah’s code is 003298

2024-25 FAFSA Changes

April 2024

Updated 4/18/2024

Today we have two pieces of good news.

First, this week the United States Department of Education has opened up the FAFSA correction process for applicants and their contributors.

Students who need to make corrections, or who need to make additions or changes to their FAFSA form, should return to to complete those updates.

In the coming days, the Department will be emailing all applicants and their contributors who have processed applications in an “Action Required” status. Emails will be sent to all applicants who require the most common corrections such as missing signatures or consent and approval to access federal tax data, students who indicated they were only interested in unsubsidized loans, and applicants who have started, but not completed their FAFSA form submission. For most applicants and contributors, this process should only take a few minutes.

Please see this webpage for instructions on correcting your FAFSA.

Second, for Pennsylvania residents, the welcome announcement from the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency that the submission deadline for the FAFSA, in order to apply for the PA State Grant Program, has been extended to June 1, 2024.   

This deadline is for the FAFSA only. 

Once the FAFSA is submitted, and the data is transmitted to PHEAA, the next step for first-time applicants is filling out the PA State Grant Form using PHEAA’s new GrantUs platform.  Notices are expected to go out in the next few weeks to students, with instructions on setting up their GrantUs accounts and completing their PA State Grant documentation.

Students needing to complete the PA State Grant Form, or any supplemental documentation, can work on those after June 1.  Just be sure to take care of these additional tasks as soon as possible so that your PA State Grant eligibility can be determined.

If you received a PA State Grant in a past year, you do not need to complete the PA State Grant Form, but you should watch for notices from PHEAA or Messiah about additional things you might need to do.


Updated 4/5/2024

After a lengthy gap, we finally have additional updates.

Since January we've been waiting for the FAFSA data to start arriving from the U.S. Department of Education (ED).

Finally, in late March, significant numbers of FAFSA records started to roll out.

Here’s where we are now:

  • To-date, Messiah has received about ½ of the normal number of FAFSAs that we would have received by this date.
  • ED has stated that not all FAFSA files will be sent at once. They will be sent in batches, so we expect that many of our student’s records are still awaiting transfer.
  • As of today, we’re still expecting it to take at least two weeks to complete installation of software upgrades and system testing.
  • Our goal is to be ready to generate financial aid packages for first-year and transfer students the week of April 22nd, but that could be adjusted if anything unexpected occurs.
  • Our Net Price Calculator is now updated and on-line. First-year and transfer students can now use it to get the best estimate of a financial aid package for the 2024-25 academic year.
    • We just ask that you keep in mind that this is still an estimate, and we appreciate your patience as we work toward getting your final aid package ready.
  • Currently enrolled students are still on the same schedule as in a normal year.  We will start to work on your aid packages after the spring semester ends and grades have been assigned.


Nationally there is a significant decline in the number of students filing the FAFSA.  If you have been waiting to see how the process works out, now is the time for you to file your FAFSA at

Despite the delays with the FAFSA, some filing deadlines are still coming up soon, so make sure you don't miss those.


January 2024

Updated 1/30/2024

Breaking News!

U.S. Department of Education Announces Further Delays in Transmitting FAFSA Data to Institutions.

Summary Points

·       Further delays in receiving FAFSA data just announced - Institutions will not receive FAFSA applicant information until "the first half of March".

·       First year student financial aid packages won’t be released until March or April.

·       Current student financial aid process could also be delayed

·       After FAFSA data begins flowing to schools, all students should watch for emails from the Financial Aid Office and respond as quickly as possible when we start sending messages about additional things we need from you in order to complete your aid package.

·       There has never been a year when it has been more important for applicants to pay attention to communications and provide quick responses.

Deeper Dive into the FAFSA

Unfortunately, the news about when we might be able to start working on financial aid packages has gotten a little more challenging over the past two weeks. 

The week before last, our software provider announced that, because of delays in receiving Department of Education information needed for system setup and testing, they would need to delay the release of our system updates from February 1 to February 15. 

Receipt of system updates is only the first step for a school in getting ready to generate aid packages.  There can be several weeks of installation and testing before we are able to send financial aid packages out to students.

Last week, the Department announced they would fix an error in the underlying formula that FAFSA data is put through.  This error was discovered during the fall, but they decided not to correct it.  However, because it meant that, in total, students would receive about $1.8 billion less in financial aid for the 2024-25 year, they finally decided to make the corrections.  Speculation at the time was that this would further delay the release of FAFSA data files to schools.

Today we learned the extent of that delay.  The Department released a surprise announcement stating that institutions will not receive FAFSA applicant information until "the first half of March…"  We don’t yet have reaction from our software provider of what that means for their release of system updates, but some things seem pretty certain:

·       This will further delay software system updates, meaning that the required installation and testing periods could put us into April before we can start to generate financial aid packages for prospective students.

·       Generating aid packages isn’t the only thing we need final system updates in order to do.  When we get the FAFSA results, they often show that the applicant is required to submit additional documents in order to finalize their application before we can generate an aid package.  The delay in being able to generate those notices to you will only further delay your receipt of a financial aid package.

All of this means some slightly different things, depending on whether you are a prospective student (incoming first year or transfer) for the 2024-25 year, or a continuing student:

·       Prospective Students

You are the population most affected at this time because you are hoping to receive your financial aid package as soon as possible.  Right now we can only tell you to continue watching your email and respond as quickly as possible when we start sending notices that we’ve received your FAFSA and that there are additional forms you need to send us.

Once we have everything we need, we’ll do our best to get your aid package to you as quickly as possible.

Again, the earliest date that these notices will start to go out will probably be sometime later in March, but quite possibly not until April.

·       Current Students

At this point, the delay is less impactful for you since we won’t start working on your financial aid package until after the end of the spring semester.

The emails letting you know of additional things you need to send us will start to go out at the same time as for prospective students (probably sometime later in March).

However, depending on how long these delays continue, our work on prospective student packages could extend further into the spring and summer than usual.  This means that it will be more important than ever that you respond quickly to requests for additional information.  This will allow us to be ready to generate your aid package as soon as we are able to start working on continuing student aid packages.

Our typical schedule for continuing student aid packages is to start working on them as soon as possible after the spring semester ends and grades have been posted, and to complete the bulk of the awards by early July, prior to the generation of fall bills.

We will do our best to stay with that schedule this year, but please understand that the overlap of work on prospective student aid packages, and any further delays that we don’t even know about at this time, could make that difficult.

·       All Students

o Don't stop submitting your FAFSAs.  The system for submitting your FAFSA is still up and running fairly well.  It's just the sending of that submitted data to schools that is on hold.  If you haven't yet completed your FAFSA, go ahead and do it now so that your application data will get to us as soon as possible when data starts flowing out to schools. 

o   While we don’t know all the details of how the submission of FAFSA data files to institutions will happen, the Department did state that they anticipate “catching up” with the majority of transmissions in the weeks following the beginning of FAFSA data delivery.  This means that not everyone’s application data will be sent to schools at the same time.  You might have a sibling or friend whose data has been received at their school, but your own data might not have yet been sent.  Please understand that the school has no control over this.

o   If you need to make corrections to your FAFSA data, that process is still on hold. You won’t be able to start making corrections until the release of records starts in March. 

As always, please continue to check back here for updates, watch for emails from us, and please contact us if you have any other questions.


Updated 1/8/2024

As of today, the Department has announced that the 2024-25 FAFSA form is now available 24/7.  For full details, see their announcement here.

Updated 1/5/2024

Following the somewhat confusing “soft launch” over the New Year’s weekend, during which the FAFSA was announced as being available but, much of the time, couldn’t actually be accessed, things seem to have stabilized somewhat.

The FAFSA application site still has a note stating that "The FAFSA form is available for short periods of time while we monitor site performance and update the form to provide you with a better experience.", but we have found it to be available most times we have checked. 

Information that we have received from the wider financial aid community indicates that applicants should expect the FAFSA to be available about 12 hours per day as the soft launch continues.

At this point, we are cautiously encouraging applicants to go ahead and file, but be aware that there might still be times you find the form unavailable or are placed in a waiting cue. 

Don’t forget that schools aren’t scheduled to start receiving FAFSA data until the end of January, so even if you file now, we won’t be able to work on your financial aid package until we receive those files and complete our testing.  Expect it to be mid-February or later until we can start sending aid packages to incoming students for fall 2024.

On a positive note, despite the launch struggles, we are hearing some good reports from those who have been able to complete the new FAFSA.  They say that:

  • The form is easy to complete.
  • It can be completed quickly.
  • The new Direct Data Exchange, the system that transfers the applicant’s federal tax information from the IRS to the FAFSA, is working well. In fact, some applicants thought that it didn’t work because it happened so quickly and without errors.


December 2023 Update

Updated 12/18/2023

Additional Breaking News: On Friday December 15th, the United States Department of Education announced that the initial release of the FAFSA will be a "soft launch".  Click here to read their announcement, and continue reading for more information on what this will mean for you.

As we approach the Christmas holiday and the expected startup of FAFSA filing at the end of the year, we want to update you on the details we do have about the new FAFSA process.

As a reminder, in the Breaking News section below we let you know that the United States Department of Education released a notice that “Students and families will be able to complete and submit FAFSA forms online by Dec. 31.”, and that the data files institutions receive when a student completes a FAFSA will start flowing out from the federal system “by the end of January 2024”.

Since that notice, except for the announcement of the soft launch, we have not received any updated timelines or actual dates from the Department, so we still expect that the FAFSA won’t be available until very late in December and that we won’t start to get any data that we can use to work on your financial aid until late January, at the earliest.

What does this mean for you?

If the FAFSA does become available in late December, it will be during the time that Messiah is closed for the Christmas break.  We will be monitoring our email for your questions, but responses may be delayed.

Watch for messages from the United States Department of Education about the FAFSA becoming available.  You can complete your FAFSA as soon as they announce that it is available, but here are a few things to consider.

  • Consider Waiting to File: As with any new system startup, there are likely to be technical problems at the beginning.  The announcement of the soft launch is just one more reason to expect such problems.  We don’t want to discourage anyone from completing the FAFSA as soon as possible, but we think it would be wise to wait at least a few days after the announcement to see if problems arise.  Check back here for updates, as we will be monitoring the process and will update this page with any news.  Since FAFSA results won’t be available for around a month after the first day that you can submit your FAFSA, there shouldn't be any disadvantage in waiting a few days.
  • FAFSA Data Delayed for Schools - This is very important for you to read and understand:  Within a short time of completing your FAFSA, our current understanding is that you will receive your Student Aid Index (SAI) and your FAFSA Submission Summary.   The FAFSA Submission Summary (formerly known as the Student Aid Report) is the output document you receive by email after filing your FAFSA.  It provides a summary of the data in your FAFSA.  It's important to understand that, even though you will have received these items, the institutions you have sent your FAFSA data to won't start to receive the files with your full FAFSA data until late January.  Until we receive those files, we can't start to do any work on your financial aid package. 
    • New Students: We understand you are anxious to receive your financial aid package and we will do everything we can to get this to you as soon as possible.  Please understand that we cannot control when this information will arrive.
    • Current Students: Unless the FAFSA data files are delayed longer than expected, the delay should not affect you since we don't start working on current student financial aid packages until after the end of the spring semester.  It will, however, be more important than ever that you respond quickly to requests for additional documents.
  • Once Started, Complete Your FAFSA Quickly: We have learned that FAFSAs started but not completed within 45 days will be deleted. 
    • For the following description, a "contributor" is anyone who is required to enter information into a student's FAFSA. 
      • For a dependent student, this would normally be the student's parent(s). 
      • For a married independent student, this would be the student's spouse.
    • A FAFSA cannot be considered submitted until all required contributors have completed, signed, and submitted their respective sections. When a student or other contributor completes their section of the online FAFSA, they will invite the other contributor(s) to log in and complete their own sections of the FAFSA. The other contributor(s) will then receive the invitation and reminder emails every 7 days throughout that 45-day period until the FAFSA is submitted. If a contributor does not complete their section within that 45-day window, and there is no other activity, the FAFSA will be deleted and all contributors (including the student) will have to start over.

    • In order to start the FAFSA, the student will need each contributor's name, Social Security Number, date of birth and email address.  If students need to collect these items after starting the FAFSA, it could significantly delay completion.  It's a good idea to have all of these items ready before starting the FAFSA.

    • Because the FAFSA completion process is now more of a multi-step process that can't always be completed in one sitting, it will be important to stay on top of this and make sure your FAFSA is completed within the 45 day time period.

  • No Renewal FAFSA for 2024-25
    • If you've completed a FAFSA in a past year, you might be used to using the renewal FAFSA option to more quickly complete your FAFSA.
    • Because of the significant changes made to the FAFSA for 2024-25, the system is not able to carry forward data from past years.
    • Because of this, the renewal option isn't available and returning students will need to fill out the FAFSA as if it's their first time.
    • The renewal option is expected to return for the 2025-26 year.

Breaking News: 2024-25 FAFSA to be available "by" December 31, 2023


On November 15, 2023, the United States Department of Education released a notice alerting higher education institutions that “Students and families will be able to complete and submit FAFSA forms online by Dec. 31.”  This does not give a specific date when the FAFSA will be available, but we believe it most likely means the FAFSA won’t be available until December 31.


We also learned through this release that the data files institutions receive when a student completes a FAFSA will start flowing out from the federal system “by the end of January 2024”.  In other words, even if you complete your FAFSA on December 31, we won’t receive the results and be able to work on your financial aid package until later in January.


For first year and transfer students awaiting their first financial aid package from Messiah, this unfortunately means an additional delay.  Right now we can’t tell you exactly when you can expect to receive your financial aid package, but we’ll keep you updated as the situation develops.


For currently enrolled students filing the FAFSA in order to reapply for aid in the 2024-25 year, this shouldn’t represent a problem since we won’t be working on financial aid packages for those students until the end of the spring semester.

Please continue to read below for the details you need to know about this major change to the FAFSA process.

How the FAFSA Simplification Act Affects You


For the 2024-25 academic year, major changes are being made in how the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will be completed. 

The FAFSA is normally available for the following academic year starting on October 1 of the prior year.   For example, for the 2023-24 academic year, students could start to file their FAFSA on October 1, 2022.

The major changes being implemented for the 2024-25 year include changes to the underlying formula the FAFSA uses to calculate financial aid eligibility, as well as the FAFSA form and the filing process.  Because of the time required to implement all of these changes, the United States Department of Education (USED) has announced that the 2024-25 FAFSA will not be available until sometime in December 2023.

Right now we don’t know an exact date the FAFSA will become available.  We’ve only been told that it will be sometime in December, but even that timeframe could be delayed by the possible government shutdown that could happen because a federal budget has not yet been passed.  We’ll keep you updated as we learn more about this.

Although you can’t start your 2024-25 FAFSA right now, here are a few things for you to know:

  • We're working to update this webpage with all the information you will need to know about the delayed startup and anything you will need to do to be prepared once the FAFSA does become available.  Wach for emails from us and check back regularly for updates.
  • USED is also planning to communicate with applicants about this delay, so watch for emails from them.
  • This delay affects only the FAFSA for the 2024-25 academic year.  If you are enrolled in the current 2023-24 academic year and still want to file your FAFSA for 2023-24, that application is currently available at

Here are a few things you can do to be prepared:

Create your Federal Student Aid ID

Both the student and the parent (if a dependent student) need to have a Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID) in order to complete the FAFSA.

If you will be a new applicant in 2024-25 (never filed a FAFSA before), you should apply for your FSA ID right now so that it can be processed and ready for your use when it is time to complete your FAFSA.  Students and parents can create the FSA ID at

If you are a student who has completed a FAFSA in the past, your FSA ID should still be valid and you should not need to complete this step again.

EFC becomes SAI

One of the big changes in the FAFSA formula is the change from the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) to the Student Aid Index (SAI).

For many years the main piece of data calculated by filing the FAFSA has been the EFC, which was viewed as an approximate amount of money that you and your family could afford to pay for your education.

For the 2024-25 year, the name of this piece of data has been changed to the Student Aid Index (SAI), but it’s not just a change of name.  The name change represents a much broader change in the underlying formula that determines your financial aid eligibility.  Many students won’t see a big difference between their EFC and SAI, but some will.  If you want to estimate the change in your financial aid eligibility, you can use the FSA Student Aid Estimator for 2024-25 to get an idea of how your SAI will differ from your EFC.

Why is the FAFSA application changing?

In 2020, Congress passed the FAFSA Simplification Act. This Act gave the initiative to change the processes used to award federal student aid. These changes include the FAFSA form, the need analysis that determines federal aid eligibility, changes in terminology, and many policies for schools that participate in federal student aid programs.

Before listing the changes, there are new terms that the FAFSA will contain:

Student Aid Index (SAI) is what was formally known as Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

Contributor – Refers to any person who is requested to provide information on the FAFSA. Examples of contributors could be the student, the student’s parents, or the student’s spouse.

FTI – Federal Tax Information transferred from the IRS.

Consent - Even if they did not file a U.S. tax return, each contributor will need to provide consent to including their Federal Tax Information (FTI) in the FAFSA.

  • The Fincancial Need formula has been changed to: Cost of Attendance – Student Aid Index – Other Financial Assistance = Financial Need.
  • The FAFSA will be reduced down to 46 questions from the previous 108. Some may not even be presented with all 46 questions.
  • The number of languages in which the FAFSA can be translated will be increased from 2 (English and Spanish) to the 11 most common languages spoken by English learners.
  • Instead of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), the FTI will be used to automatically transfer tax information from the IRS to the FAFSA (after providing consent through the new Consent to Retrieve and Disclose Federal Tax Information part of the FAFSA).
  • The SAI will no longer take the number of household members into account when calculating federal aid eligibility.
  • More students will receive the Federal Pell Grant due to the FAFSA Simplification Act. This will link eligibility to family size and the federal poverty level.
  • Small businesses and farms that also serve as a primary residence are to be considered an asset. This means that families must now report the value of their small business/farm and that value will be considered in their need analysis calculation.

The Act requires that schools transition from the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) to the Student Aid Index (SAI) beginning in the 2024-25 Award Year. The SAI is a number that determines each student’s eligibility for certain types of federal student aid. An applicant’s SAI is calculated using modified need analysis formulas outlined in the Act. These formulas use information that applicants provide on the FAFSA® form and, in most cases, federal tax information (FTI) that is retrieved directly from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The most significant changes to the need analysis formulas include:

  • Removal of the number of family members in college from the eligibility calculation
  • The possibility for an SAI to be a negative number, with a minimum SAI of -1,500 instead of zero
  • Elimination of alternate EFCs for enrollment for a period other than 9 months
  • Elimination of the Simplified Needs Test (SNT) and Auto-Zero calculations, which have been replaced with similar calculations described below
  • There are significant changes to the asset contribution components in the SAI formula.
  • Assets now include the annual amount of child support received (previously included as income in the EFC formula). The recipient of the child support will be asked to report the amount received in the last complete calendar year.
  • The net worth of a business is no longer limited to those with more than 100 full-time employees. Applicants will be asked to report the net worth of all businesses, regardless of the size of the business.
  • Net worth of a farm now includes the value of a family farm. However, the value of a family’s primary residence is still excluded. The net worth of a farm may include the fair market value of land, buildings, livestock, unharvested crops, and machinery actively used in investment farms or agricultural or commercial activities, minus any debts held against those assets.
  • For dependent students, education savings accounts will only be counted as a parental asset if the account is designated for the student. Previously, if a parent had education savings accounts for their other children, the value of those was also required to be counted.
  • The law specifically highlights certain changes to assets or income as items that the financial aid administrator can adjust using professional judgment. These include:
    • Excluding from family income or assets any proceeds or losses from a sale of farm or business assets of a family resulting from a foreclosure, forfeiture, bankruptcy, or liquidation; or
    • Adjusting assets to consider additional costs incurred by the student because of a disability of the student, their dependent or spouse, or their parent or guardian.

Webinars: How To Prepare for the 2024–25 FAFSA Form and 2024-25 FAFSA prototype preview

The United States Department of Education will be offering these webinars on October 26 at 9:00 p.m. (EDT)

Get access to information regarding the new FAFSA form, see a demonstration of the new form, and get more information from Federal Student Aid experts with the U.S. Department of Education.

You can register to attend these webinars HERE


Because of the amount of changes, the Financial Aid website may not be completely up-to-date for the 2024/2025 academic year. The webpages will be constantly updated with the new, accurate information. Thank you for your patience and understanding.


Please contact us if you have any questions.  We are here to help you.

Financial Aid Office
Messiah University
One University Avenue
Mechanicsburg PA 17055
Phone: 717.691.6007
Fax: 717.691.2349

Last updated: October 25, 2023