Financial aid processing for the 2024-25 academic year is changing due to new rules from the U.S. Department of Education and Federal Student Aid in line with the FAFSA Simplification Act.
Change certainly can be hard. Columbia College is here to work with you through any affordability concerns.
The 2024-25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will open Dec. 31.
Columbia College’s Financial Aid Office answers 10 frequently asked questions below:
Q: Why is the FAFSA changing?
A: The federal aid system that has been in place was developed in the 1970s. The time has come for the system to be overhauled. These changes streamline the FAFSA process, making the FAFSA shorter with fewer questions and providing transparency in eligibility calculations.
Q: When should I do my 2024-25 FAFSA?
A: The FAFSA opens Dec. 31. We recommend completion Jan. 1 or immediately after that.
Q: Why should I do my 2024-25 FAFSA early if you won’t process it early?
A: The date of submission of the FAFSA to the Department of Education drives eligibility for certain financial aid programs. For example, the State of Missouri’s need-based aid program priority deadline is Feb. 1. Submitting it early also ensures that as the Department of Education provides the information to Columbia College, your information will be included and the next steps at CC can get started.
Q: When can I expect to hear from you once I have completed my 2024-25 FAFSA?
A: Once Columbia College receives the information from the Department of Education, it will be loaded into our system for processing. We expect that students will see received FAFSA information by mid-February 2024. Students can view the status of their financial aid in myPortal through Self-Service Financial Aid. The checklist of required items is available and will be updated in real time as information is processed.
Q: What can I do now to prepare for the FAFSA?
A: There are several proactive steps you can take now that prepare for completion of the FAFSA form so when it opens you can complete it more quickly. You will not be able to create a studentaid.gov account and complete the FAFSA on the same day, so it is important to prepare before the FAFSA opens.
- If this is your first time completing the FAFSA, you (and all contributors) can go to studentaid.gov to create an account. This is your FSA ID – the username and password necessary for completing a FAFSA form.
- If you already have an FSA ID, log into studentaid.gov and confirm your information is up to date.
Additionally, you can get ready by collecting required documents for FAFSA completion, including:
- tax returns
- current balances of cash, savings and checking accounts
- net worth investments, businesses and farms
Q: Do I have to file the FAFSA?
A: No, you are not required to file a FAFSA. With that said, research shows that many students believe they won’t be eligible for grants based on things they have heard without applying. We strongly recommend that students complete the FAFSA so that their eligibility can be determined through the process.
Q: My parents don’t plan to contribute to my education so they won’t fill out the FAFSA. What should I do now?
A: We completely understand. The first thing we want to do is make sure your parents understand that sharing (or contributing) information on the FAFSA does not require that they provide financial contributions for your education. Still, the information that they share provides you the opportunity for the best possible aid package. Connect with your Student Success Coach so that we can work with you on getting that information to your parents. If your parent still declines to provide information, you can still be eligible for loans. Student Success Coaches will partner with our Financial Aid Office to get the needed documentation.
Q: My parents have done the FAFSA before and know we won’t be eligible. Why should I do it now?
A: We strongly believe there is value in completing a FAFSA each year. Additionally, the 2024-25 year has new calculations and processes, so even previous experiences with the FAFSA do not indicate eligibility for 2024-25.
Q: I am worried about how to pay for college. I expected to know more about my 2024-25 financial aid by now. Where do I turn?
A: We encourage you to connect with your Student Success Coach so that we can talk through the specifics of your concerns. There is definitely newness to the FAFSA and some aspects of aid. With that said, there is a lot that isn’t changing. The key federal aid programs (Pell, Work Study, SEOG and loans) still exist. You can plan your courses and get registered now so that you understand the cost that the aid needs to cover.
Q: Registration for all of 2024-25 just opened but I don’t have financial aid. Should I register without financial aid in place?
A: We recommend going ahead and completing the steps of registration now. Registering for classes now ensures that you are in your classes while we work with you to get the financial aid pieces in place. It also ensures that you can see the information on cost in your payment plan. If you have affordability concerns, this is a great time to connect with your Student Success Coach so that you can meet and begin those conversations. Most financial aid eligibility is also based on the courses that you enroll in. Putting together the complete picture can be started by registering. If things change, adjustments to registration can still be made.