Federal government simplifies FAFSA application, expands Pell Grant to include prison education programs

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Getting federal funds for college is about to get easier as the government has rolled out new changes to requirements.

There are about five major changes to FAFSA requirements and Pell Grant eligibility.

These changes will simplify application forms for both students and financial aid offices at colleges and universities.

Under the new rules, the Expected Family Contribution has been renamed the Student Aid Index.

This will allow eligible students to have a negative index and pay or receive funding that is reflective of their financial needs.

While these changes will likely come into effect in the 2024-2025 school year, others like a student’s criminal past and selective service registration for male students will no longer be an obstacle from this year.

Deputy Director of Financial Aid Office at Minot State University Lindsey Benson welcomes the changes.

“What that also means is more students will be available for the federal Pell grant,” Benson said, owing to the fact that family sizes will be used alongside “poverty guideline to determine federal pell grant.”

Benson said the changes will result in fewer hurdles for students when applying for federal loans.

Meanwhile, Pell Grant eligibility has been expanded to cover incarcerated people in prison education programs.

This will be the first time incarcerated people are receiving the grant since 1994.

These changes, among others, were captured in the 2021 appropriations bill that funded the government through September 2021.

Students and parents can find more information on the changes here.

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