Changes to Expect on the 2021–2022 FAFSA Form

Julissa Treviño Updated on September 21, 2020

The FAFSA form (a.k.a., the Free Application for Federal Student Aid) — the application required to qualify for financial aid — is changing yet again. If you're applying for financial aid this year, you'll want to understand these changes in order for the process to go smoothly. 

A quick overview:

  • Need analysis income threshold increase - A new, higher income limit to qualify for a zero Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
  • myStudentAid Mobile App Changes and Enhancements
  • FAFSA Navigation Updates
  • Schedule 1 Question Changes and Updates
  • Household Information Question Changes and Updates

FAFSA

To explain some of the changes, we spoke to Natesha McMillon, a higher education literacy provider who's a FAFSA expert.

Income threshold for zero Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

The income threshold for an automatic-zero Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is increasing from $26,000 to $27,000 for those applying for the 2021–22 school year.

What does this mean? "The EFC is a measure of your family’s financial strength," McMillon says. Essentially, this takes into account:

  • Your family’s taxed and untaxed income
  • Assets, and
  • Benefits (such as unemployment or Social Security).

The government uses this formula to illustrate a student's level of financial need, and how much aid the student should receive.

"Having a zero EFC means the family doesn’t have the ability to cover any college costs," McMillon says. "Therefore, the student will have a greater financial need than another student who has a high EFC."Applicants with an automatic-zero EFC are eligible for certain receive need-based financial such as, Pell Grants, Federal State Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), and federal work-study. Additionally, some states also award financial aid including grants and tuition waivers. Most states use your FAFSA to determine your eligibility, however, other states have their own application. Please note, need-based aid is awarded first-come, first-serve. Therefore, the earlier you submit your FAFSA application, the better chance you will have of receiving financial aid.

The change in the income threshold is actually beneficial, McMillon says, because it increases the maximum income for families allowed to receive an automatic-zero EFC. "Therefore, [more people] should be eligible to receive need-based aid and institutional aid from the institution they plan on attending," McMillon says. Institutional aid is aid offered by some colleges in the form of grants and scholarships to students who either demonstrate financial need or qualify academically. This aid does not have to be repaid, however, those who receive merit-based aid will have to meet the minimum scholarship requirements (e.g. maintain a certain GPA, enrollment status, etc.) to renew it. 

myStudentAid Mobile App Changes and Enhancements

Federal Student Aid is releasing a new version of the myStudentAid mobile app, which will remain available through the Apple App Store (iOS) and Google Play (Android). The updated app will provide the following changes and enhancements which will include the following functionality:

  • FAFSA Form – Complete the FAFSA Form safely and securely from your mobile device.
  • Dashboard – Access various types of popular tasks and a personalized web page to help you determine what actions to take.
  • Settings – Edit/manage your account, using your username and password (FSA ID)
  • Aid Summary – View your federal student loan and grant history
  • Notification Center – View and manage notifications regarding your student aid
  • Payment Vehicle Account (PVA) – Opt to receive financial aid refunds and manage other finances through a prepaid debit card.  Available at select schools during pilot phase of program. 

FAFSA Navigation

The navigation to get to the FAFSA form once within the app has been updated to the following:

The user will log in to the entire app first and then land on their Dashboard. From there, the user can select the FAFSA from their Dashboard options to navigate to the form.  Alternatively, once the user has logged in to the app, they can navigate to the form by selecting the FAFSA option in the hamburger menu.

Additionally, the FAFSA specific navigation in the app now appears as a separate menu when a user enters their FAFSA form. Once the user is within their FAFSA form, they can select the “Menu” option in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen to reveal the local navigation options.

There are a few “minor” changes to the local navigation which include “FAFSA Summary” being renamed “Review FAFSA,” and “Exit FAFSA” will now take the user to their Dashboard. 

Schedule 1 Changes

When users choose to populate their mobile or FAFSA on the Web application via the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) , the DRT will now automatically answer the question about whether or not they filed a Schedule 1. The answer will be based on all current exceptions for filing a Schedule 1. The transferred data for the Schedule 1 fields will be handled the same as other data transferred using the IRS DRT. All information transferred from the IRS is considered sensitive, therefore, the “Filed a Schedule 1?” question and response will be masked. The help text and instructions that accompany this question has also been updated.

Household Information Updates

The household information portions of Section 3 and section 4 has been revised. Changes include the way a user provides household information, the presentation of the household size totals, as well as the wording of the “Number in College’ questions.

The updates in Section 3 for the student household information are as follows:

If a user selects “Yes” to indicate they have children (or other dependents) who receive more than half their support from them, they will be prompted on the next view to enter the number of children.  The user will then be able to navigate to the Household Information view where they will see a numerical breakdown of the student’s household in a table, including their spouse, their children and other dependents, and the total household size.

On this view they will also see the “Number in College” question with updated formatting: “Out of the *{[sum of dependents]* people in your household (as indicated above), how many will be in college in 2021-22? Include yourself in this number.”

The updates in Section 4 for the parent household information are as follows:

The user will be able to enter the number of the parent’s children on one view, followed by the parent’s other dependents on a separate view.

The user will be able to navigate to the Parent Household Information view to see a numerical breakdown of the parent’s household size in a table, including the parent(s), the student, the parent(s)’s children and other dependents, and the total household size.

The number in college question will display below the Household Information table and will read: “Out of the *[sum of dependents]* people in your parent’s household (as indicated above), how many will be in college in 2020-21? Do not include your parent.” 

Have more questions about FAFSA? Check out our FAQ.

Published in: FAFSA, Financial Aid

About the Author
Julissa Treviño

Julissa Treviño is a writer and journalist based in Texas. Her work has appeared in BBC Future, CityLab, Columbia Journalism Review, The Dallas Morning News, Racked, Teen Vogue and other publications. She enjoys traveling, playing with makeup, biking and trying new food. Follow her @JulissaTrevino. Read more by Julissa Treviño

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