Financial Aid

2024-25 FAFSA Simplification

The FAFSA Simplification Act was passed by Congress as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and aims to simplify the financial aid application process for students and families. There are several significant changes to the application and the process for 2024/25. Please review the terminology changes and topics below.

Contributor - Individuals, such as a student, parent or spouse, that may be required to provide information on an applicant's FAFSA depending on the applicant's dependency or marital status.

DDX - The Direct Data Exchange is the secure method by which Federal Tax Information (FTI) is transferred from the IRS to the Department of Education. This replaces the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) used in prior years to import tax information from the IRS into the FAFSA.

FTI - Federal Tax Information is used by the Department of Education to determine eligibility for federal student aid and consists of (1) tax data elements and (2) information derived from a tax return. The tax return information includes, but is not limited to, the taxpayer's name, address, and identification number, names of dependents, and tax filing status.

SAI - The Student Aid Index is an eligibility index number that the financial aid office uses to determine how much federal student aid students receive. This replaces Expected Family Contribution (EFC) terminology used previously.

Will FAFSA simplification impact the amount of institutional need-based grant Union students will qualify for?

The FAFSA determines federal aid eligibility which includes Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), and federal Direct Loans. At Union, we determine eligibility for all of our need-based grants and scholarships by means of the CSS profile. Therefore, while FAFSA changes may impact federal grant and loan eligibility, it will not impact our process for awarding institutional need-based aid.

FAFSA Filing Changes

  • Creating an FSA ID

    The FSA ID is a username and password combination used to log in to U.S. Department of Education online systems. While in prior years, demographic information could be used to access a FAFSA, this is no longer the case - FSA IDs will now be required. Additional notes:

    • Before an FSA ID can be used, it will need to be matched with the Social Security Administration. This matching process can take up to one week. Once it has been matched, the FAFSA can be completed.
    • Every time an FSA ID is used, two-step verification will be required.
    • For married parents who file taxes jointly, only one parent needs to obtain an FSA ID.
    • When parents are married but file taxes separately, both parents will need to obtain an FSA ID.
    • Biological parents who are not married but live together, will both need to obtain an FSA ID.
    • Individuals without a Social Security Number will now be able to create an FSA ID. In prior years, this was not possible and those individuals were required to submit a paper signature page. This will no longer be an option.
  • Role-Based FAFSA completion

    The FAFSA will now ask whomever has logged in whether they are completing it as a "Student" or "Parent" so that they can complete sections pertaining to themselves.

    When a student begins the FAFSA

    • As part of the student's application, they will be asked to enter personal information about their parents in order to send them an "invite" to their FAFSA form.
      • The invitation will be emailed to the parent and will include a direct link to
      • Parents will use their personal FSA ID to log in, not their student's, and will be taken to their "My Activity" page where they can begin their portion of the FAFSA.
      • Students will not have the capability to complete the parental contributor section of the FAFSA.
    • Students must provide approval and consent for FTI to be obtained automatically from the IRS and for the disclosure of this information to be provided to colleges/universities for the purposes of determining eligibility for federal student aid. Consent needs to be provided even if the student is a nonfiler.

    When a parent begins the FAFSA

    • As part of the parent's application, they will be asked to provide the student's information to prompt an email to the student.
    • Parents can manually answer questions pertaining to the student (including manually entering student tax information); however, a parent cannot provide student consent or signature. Until student consent is provided, the student is ineligible for federal student aid.
      • Parent should direct student to log in to the FAFSA (using link in student's email) and provide consent and signature for FAFSA processing.
    • Parents must provide approval and consent for the transfer of FTI into the FAFSA, even if the parent is a nonfiler.

    The FAFSA will not be complete or processed until both the student and parent sections have been completed, including consent.

  • DDX - The Exchange of Federal Tax Information (FTI)

    The Simplification Act requires the Department of Education to use data directly received by the IRS to calculate a student's federal aid eligibility. The Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education Act (FUTURE Act) further requires the Department to access this tax information through a secure method: DDX.

    The most significant change is that, in prior years, applicants could agree (or not) to the transfer and still complete their FAFSA. Now, as a condition of eligibility for federal student aid, all contributors will be required to consent and approve to the data transfer even if any of the contributors are aware that they did not file a tax return.

    • If consent is not provided, the applicant will be ineligible for federal financial aid.
      • Consent must be provided even if income and tax information is entered manually on the FAFSA. In this case, failure to consent will result in the FAFSA being "rejected" by the Department of Education.
      • The exchange of FTI includes tax filing status which means that nontax filers must also consent.
    • FTI is not included on the FAFSA Submission Summary. Therefore, in addition to consent, contributors will also need to approve the re-disclosure of their FTI to institutions (colleges and universities), state higher education agencies, and designated scholarship organizations.
    • Because each contributor will need to provide individual consent and approval, students and parents must log in separately to complete this step.
      • In cases when parents are married but file taxes separately, they will each have to log in to provide consent and approval. One parent cannot complete this step for the other.
    • The consent and approval process must be completed once on an annual basis by the FAFSA contributors. This means that the question asking for consent will not be presented if an applicant logs back into the FAFSA to make a correction (e.g., to add a new school code).

    Additional Note: In a very limited number of cases, the IRS may be unable to transfer FTI into the FAFSA (e.g., foreign tax return filers). In these cases, contributors will need to input their income and tax data manually. They will still be required to provide consent to use their FTI (which includes filing status).

  • When parents are separated/divorced

    As in prior years, in cases of separation/divorce only one parent will complete the FAFSA. If that parent is remarried, new spouse information will also be included. However, for 2024/25 the determination of which parent needs to complete the FAFSA has changed. Please be aware, the change will apply to parents who were already separated/divorced and filed separately in 2022, as well as those who were married but have since separated and/or divorced.

    Important considerations:

    • The parent to complete the FAFSA (referred to as the contributor and/or parent of record) may not be the parent the student lives with.
    • It does not matter which parent claims the student on their tax return.

    Which parent needs to complete the FAFSA?

    The parent who provided more financial support than the other parent during the 12 months immediately prior to filling out the FAFSA.

    • When one parent pays child support to the other in an amount that is more than half of the student's support, then the parent paying the child support will be the parent that should fill out the FAFSA.
    • If both parents provided an equal amount of financial support or if they don't support the student financially, then the parent with the greater income or assets should fill out the FAFSA.
    • If either parent has remarried, the new stepparent's income, assets, or support of the student is not a consideration in determining which parent should fill out the FAFSA.

    Additional notes:

    • If the contributing parent has remarried, stepparent FTI will be included in the need analysis. If taxes were filed jointly, consent will be required by only one parent. If they did not file jointly, then the stepparent will need to separately log in to provide consent for their FTI to be included in the FAFSA.
    • If parents are divorced but living under the same roof, both parents will be required to submit their information regardless of marital status.

FAFSA Processing Changes

  • Family Size

    The definition of family size has changed to align with the number of individuals reported as dependents on the applicant's parents' (if dependent) or applicant's (if independent) U.S. tax return.

    • This information is part of the FTI that is automatically transferred into the FAFSA from the IRS. This information will be masked, however, so families will be unable to see what figure was transferred. For this reason, the contributing parent will want to have access to their tax return so that they can confirm that the dependents listed are inclusive of all dependents.
      • When it is necessary to add a child (e.g., adding a child that was not listed as a dependent on the contributing parent's tax return), the new requirement is that the child must have lived with the parent for more than half the year and that the parent must provide more than half of their support between July 1 and June 30 of the award year covered by the FAFSA.
      • When adding others (relatives), they can only be included if they live with the parent and the parent will provide more than half of their support between July 1 and June 30 of the award year covered by the FAFSA. They also cannot be claimed as a dependent of another taxpayer.
    • As a general rule, only include someone who would be classified as an "eligible dependent" under the Internal Revenue Code.
  • Number of dependents in college

    The FAFSA will ask if there are other family members in college, but it will no longer be a factor in the need analysis. Though this will impact federal student aid, at Union, we use the CSS profile in the determination of institutional need-based aid eligibility. The CSS profile will continue to include siblings enrolled at the undergraduate level as part of the analysis for need-based aid.