FAFSA Simplification Act
The FAFSA Simplification Act is a significant overhaul of the processes and systems used to award federal student aid. Starting with the 2024–2025 award year, key changes include:
- Reducing the number of questions and data fields on the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
- Replacing the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) with the Student Aid Index (SAI)
- A new methodology for determining aid, including the formula to calculate Pell Eligibility and Cost of Attendance
- Expanded access to the Federal Pell Grant
This article outlines how we are handling these changes and what is required of you. If you have questions about these changes, contact your Client Success Director. Additionally, you may wish to reference these resources:
How is Othot handling FAFSA data field changes?
The following variables will be removed from the FAFSA:
- Housing Status
- Selective Service
- Drug Convictions
- Number of Children in College
- Interest in Federal Work-study
- Need Based Assistantships and Earnings
- Farmer’s Income and Assets
If these variables are currently included in your models, we will work with you to remap added or removed variables to maintain model accuracy and performance.
How is Othot handling the Student Aid Index (SAI)?
Historically, EFC has played an important role in how schools construct award strategies, and we are aware of the impact this shift from EFC to SAI (and other related changes) may have on constructing strategies for the upcoming year. Therefore, we will make a series of modifications to models and other aspects of Othot to better assist you in this transition.
What do I need to do?
You will need to provide historic SAI data so we can rebuild admit and deposit models.
- For each historical year (2023 included), create a CSV file (.csv) with at least the following fields:
Should match the Student ID provided for Othot modeling.
Student Aid Index (SAI)
The newly calculated Student Aid Index.
SAI Pell Eligibility Flag
Indicates Y/N if the student would be eligible for Pell Grants under any methodology.
Note: while optional, you may wish to include Min Pell Eligibility and Max Pell Eligibility flags since they can provide more granularity for simulated decision making.
- Securely send the files to us by uploading them to the data page (or, if applicable, through your SFTP).
How can I get the SAI Data for prior years?
You can obtain SAI data via the NASFAA SAI Modeling Tool. Following the NASFAA template's guidelines, you will extract and export the required fields from your internal systems, then input the data into the Modeling Tool to generate the fields outlined above.
It is important to note that the NASFAA SAI Modeling Tool is designed to be specific to the aid year, as FAFSA calculations may vary from one year to the next. While changes are typically minor, it is generally advisable to use the most current version. Currently, the 2023–2024 and 2022–2023 versions of the tool are available.
Note: if your institution used a previous version, the decision to resubmit with the latest version is at your discretion.
What happens if I do not provide the data?
If you do not provide the data, we will remove EFC from your models (however, it will remain in the grid).
EFC is often an impactful feature in many client models. Removing this piece of information without simultaneously substituting it with SAI could have negative consequences, such as lower model performance and less accurate predictions and prescriptions, largely as it relates to understanding the impact of aid.
When is this change occurring?
These updates will be completed during the rollover process, which begins when we receive final outcome data for the most recent year.
How is Pell Grant eligibility changing in Othot?
The Pell eligibility flag for historical years – which was determined by EFC – will not change because it accurately represents who was Pell eligible at that point in time. Note: when you provide us with the SAI Pell Eligibility Flag for historical years, you will be able to view that flag so you can understand differences in eligibility between EFC and SAI.
The new Pell eligibility flag – which is calculated using SAI – will be used moving forward to indicate eligibility for all prospective students.
What changes will be made to the aid features used in models?
No changes will be made to the aid features used in the models; they will continue to incorporate the actual awards that were offered to students in historical years. However, to better inform future decision making, we will update the platform so you can simulate the potential impact of the SAI and Pell changes on historical awards.
We will use the What-if function to enable Pell grant simulations. This functionality will allow you to assess the consequences of allocating additional funds to students who may not have qualified for Pell Grants or been considered high need under the EFC, but who would now qualify under the SAI, and vice versa. This feature aims to address some of the uncertainties surrounding the SAI transition and assist in devising an effective financial aid strategy for the upcoming year.
Initial Admit Model Addition
To aid with the delay in FAFSA data being available for 2024–2025, we are implementing an additional, but temporary, Initial Admit model. This model is designed to produce more accurate predictions for students who are admitted prior to the release of FAFSA data. The model will:
- Utilize a subset of variables from the existing admission model(s)
- Reflect information available about a student at the time of admission, such as application data and admission decision/status
- Include aid-related features, recognizing that merit-based awards may be determined prior to the FAFSA data becoming accessible
The FUTURE Act (Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education Act) allows the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to expand its ability to share certain Federal Tax Information (FTI) to Federal Student Aid (FSA). Under this new regulation, data points that can be transferred from the IRS are classified as FTI and held to high security standards. Institutions may be restricted from sharing an individual's FTI with third-party providers.
How does this impact Othot models?
Currently, you may be sharing data with us that is categorized as Federal Tax Information (FTI), such as Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). If FTI data points are integrated into your models and are sourced directly from the FAFSA, we may need to temporarily exclude them to prevent any adverse effects on prediction accuracy. We will work with you to remove impacted variables to maintain model accuracy and performance.
Note that the impact here is generally minimal. Excluding the data should result in very limited, if any, impact on the overall model performance. This is because similar data points like SAI and the FAFSA Received Flag are available and will continue to be utilized in the models.