Columbia Financial Aid and Educational Financing

FAFSA Simplification Updates

Home / FAFSA Simplification Updates / FAFSA Simplification Updates

While students can now submit a FAFSA, the US Department of Education is not yet sending FAFSA information to schools. Your FAFSA will remain in a Not Received status in our Document Tracking until the Department starts to send us FAFSA information.

Please note that while some of the information on this page is relevant to any student completing a FAFSA, there are sections that are particular to Columbia College and Columbia Engineering. If you are a student of any other school, please contact your school's financial aid office to learn about how these changes are impacting their policies and procedures.

2024-25 FAFSA

Date Available: The 2024-25 FAFSA is currently available for submissions. It is periodically being brought down for maintenance.

Known Issues: The Department of Education has created a Known Issues website that is listing all issues that have have been identified, but not corrected with the new FAFSA. If you are experiencing an issue with submitting your FAFSA that is not related to the system being down for maintenance, you can review this Known Issues website to see if your issue is listed and how to work around it.

Tracking of FAFSA Submission: While you should be able to submit your FAFSA now, the Department of Education has informed us that there will be delays in schools receiving FAFSA data. If you are reviewing your Columbia Financial Aid Tracking of documents submitted, please note that no FAFSAs will be marked as received until the Department of Education sends FAFSA data to schools. As of January 26th, we do not have a definitive date on when FAFSA data will be sent.

Early Decision: Although the 2024-25 FAFSA was not live in time for Early Decision applicants, students admitted to Columbia through Early Decision were provided with their preliminary financial aid eligibility at the time of their admission. The initial evaluation was be based on the CSS Profile and any other documents required in our process. Early Decision admitted students will then be required to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible once but no later than March 15th so we can confirm their financial aid eligibility. If a student is having difficulty completing the FAFSA due to one or both parents not having a Social Security Number, they may submit the FAFSA as soon as that issue is resolved.

All non-Early Decision applicants: Since the FAFSA has launched, non-Early Decision applicants should complete their FAFSA's by the stated deadlines for their type of application. That is February 15th for Regular Decision and March 1st for Transfer and Combined Plan applicants. If a student is having difficulty completing the FAFSA due to one or both parents not having a Social Security Number, they may submit the FAFSA as soon as that issue is resolved, even if that is after the deadline.

What Is Changing

Completing the FAFSA: The FAFSA is being overhauled to make it simpler and shorter to complete. Most data that can be found on an individual's Federal Tax Return will remain part of the FAFSA, while a number of questions that can not be found on a tax return will be removed.

The EFC is now the SAI: Previously, the result of the FAFSA has been the Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). The result of FAFSAs in 2024-25 and going forward will be the Student Aid Index (SAI). In addition to the name, the formula behind it has changed as well. However, it is still significantly correlated with income and assets. While the EFC could go no lower than $0, the SAI will be permitted to calculate to as low as -$1,500. For Columbia students with negative SAIs, it will be treated as a $0 SAI.

Contributors: Individuals who provide information on a student's FAFSA are now called Contributors. This is in place of terms such as student, spouse and parent.

Consent: Since all income data will now come directly from the IRS, including confirmation when an individual doesn't have a tax return on file, all contributors will now need to provide consent for their information to be used as part of the 2024-25 FAFSA. It is important for all contributors (student, parents and spouses) to provide consent when prompted. Not providing consent will disqualify the student from being eligible for Federal financial aid and in certain instances might impact a student's Columbia grants.

Where the data comes from: The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) will be replaced with the FUTURE Act Direct Data Exchange (FADDX). This change in the flow of data will allow all contributors with a Social Security Number (SSN) or who file taxes to have their information transferred directly to the Department of Education.

FSA IDs:. All contributors should create their FSA IDs if they don't already have one, even if they do not have an SSN. While some students may only need one parent to create a FSA ID, others will need both parents to create one. In short, if your parents file their taxes as Married Filing Jointly, then only one parent will need an FSA ID. However, if your parents file with any other tax status, they each will need a separate FSA ID. At present, the process for contributors without SSNs isn't available yet, but it should be soon. We will update this page once instructions are available.

Asset reporting: Previously, most small businesses and farms were not required to be reported on the FAFSA. Now, the net worth of all businesses and farms must be reported as assets on the FAFSA. A family's primary home and designated retirement assets (IRAs, 401Ks, 403bs, etc) are still excluded from the FAFSA.

Divorced Parents: In families where the student's biological parents are divorced, the parent of record is the parent who provided the greater portion of the student's financial support during the 12 months immediately prior to filing the FAFSA. If that parent is remarried, then that parent's spouse (the student's step-parent) must be included on the FAFSA as well. This is a change to the prior standard of which parent the student lived with more.

Additional information: The Department of Education will be regularly updating their website with more information for students and families at: Similarly, our office will continue to update our website as well.

Impacts for Columbia College and Columbia Engineering Students

Timelines: A significant impact this year has to do with the timeline, in particular for Early Decision students. While the late opening of the FAFSA means that we will not have your FAFSA for the initial Early Decision file review, we will still be able to provide preliminary financial aid eligibility based on your CSS Profile data. All other applicant rounds, including returning/continuing students, should be able to submit the FAFSA by your normal financial aid application deadline. The Department of Education has noted that they will return to an October 1st launch in future years.

Early Decision Financial Aid: For Early Decision admits who have submitted CSS Profiles and 2022 tax documents, our office will provide you with a preliminary estimate of your financial aid eligibility at the time of your admission. After we receive your FAFSA and tuition and other costs are finalized for the 2024-25 academic year, we will revise your financial aid award. However, we expect that revisions will maintain the same net cost that was provided to you in the preliminary letter.

Pell Grant Eligibility: Our office uses the CSS Profile and our own internal analysis to determine a combination of Parent Contribution, Student Contribution (summer earnings) and Work-study expectation. Once those amounts are calculated, we meet the remainder of a student's financial need with grants from Federal, State and Institutional sources. While we do expect that a certain number of students will have changes to their Federal Pell Grant eligibility once their FAFSA is submitted, Columbia's policy of meeting full need means that the sum of all of your grants will remain the same, regardless of what happens to your eligibility for a Federal Pell Grant. In short, your net cost after all grants will remain the same.

Number in College Adjustment: The FAFSA is removing the Number in College question and will no longer adjust for this. This change only impacts your eligibility for Federal financial aid. The CSS Profile and Columbia are still taking the number of undergraduates in college into account when we are doing our analysis for your overall financial aid eligibility. So although the change in the FAFSA might impact some student's eligibility for Subsidized Direct Loans or Federal Work-study, the change will not impact your total grants or net cost at Columbia.

Contacting Our Office

Financial Aid and Educational Financing is open for walk-ins and phone calls. You can also reach us by e-mailing or by requesting an appointment.