Students Leaving Class

What is the FAFSA?

The FAFSA, officially known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the form that families fill out to apply for federal grants, loans, and work-study funds for college students. It is administered by the U.S. Department of Education, which provides more than $150 billion in student aid each year. To apply for federal student aid, you need to complete the FAFSA.

EVEN IF YOU THINK you won’t qualify for any aid, we encourage you to fill out the FAFSA. There are Carroll College grants and scholarships you may be eligible for just because you filed the FAFSA. These grants and scholarships include large awards like the Montana and Northwest Advantage Awards that range from $1,000 to $11,000. There are also special room grants for special populations.

If you apply and submit your FAFSA by January 2024 you will receive a full Financial Aid Offer Letter by March of 2024.

If you would like to be considered for any federal need-based aid (Pell Grant, FSEOG Grant, Stafford loans, and Federal Work-Study) or Carroll College need-based aid, you must complete the FAFSA. It is easy if you take a few steps to get prepared.

You will need your and/or your parents' tax returns for income and tax data, as well as your personal information. You also need to know that Carroll College's FAFSA School Code is 002526. You can pull up the online FAFSA pre-application to get an idea of the questions you'll need to answer.

Also, the Direct Data Exchange, which allows automatic population of a student's FAFSA with tax return data and decreases the need for additional documentation, can be used by millions more students and families under PPY (see below), since the data from two years prior would be readily available upon application.

The 2024-2025 FAFSA will be available in December 2023, so students can use the PPY's (2022) completed income tax return.  In the future it will be available October 1st each year. 

The results of your FAFSA or the Student Aid Index (SAI) will be sent to each school you list on the FAFSA. Carroll's priority deadline for receipt of the FAFSA is March 1 of this year. 

The FAFSA requests information about two-year prior taxes based on the assumption that is the best way to project a family's ability to contribute to their student's cost of education.

If extenuating circumstances exist that change the student's overall financial status (such as medical and dental expenses not covered by insurance, loss of income (termination, layoff, reduction of salary), divorce or separation, or the costs of tuition for siblings or children attending private elementary and secondary institutions), the Financial Aid Office will consider these to determine if the student has additional eligibility for financial aid.

Students who find themselves in this situation should submit a Special Circumstance Form.  A Special Circumstance should be submitted only if you feel your current financial situation is unique and not accurately reflected on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.  The request may require further documentation and is subject to the professional judgment of the Carroll College Financial Aid Office staff.  Any decision is final and applies only to Carroll College.  

Appeals will be reviewed once your FAFSA has been completed and all required documentation has been received.  The accuracy of the information provided on the FAFSA will be verified before any adjustments are considered.

FAFSA Cover Video
Did you miss Carroll’s recent FAFSA financial aid nights hosted by experienced financial aid professional Janet Riis and her team? Watch it here and remember you can always reach out to Janet’s team for questions!



Better FAFSA, Better Future

In March 2020, Senator Alexander from Tennessee sponsored a bi-partisan bill in Congress called the FAFSA Simplification Act.  It passed both the House and the Senate without controversy and was signed into law by then-President Donald Trump.  This law dictates the questions that can be asked on the FAFSA form and what can be used to calculate the FAFSA. The Department of Education and the Internal Revenue Service were charged by this law to create a process that provided for a seamless flow of data between the two agencies so that the form would be easier for families to complete.

You might need:

  • Tax Returns (Most Recent Two Years)
  • Records of Child Support Received
  • Current Balances of Cash, Savings and Checking Accounts
  • Net Worth of Investments, Business and Farms
  • Parent SSN, Birthday and Email used to create FSA ID
  • Spouse SSN, Birthday and Email used to create FSA ID
  • Student FSA ID
  • Mailing Address if no SSN

An FSA ID serves as your log-on to your StudentAid.gov account and signature stamp for all federal websites.

Your consent is needed to retrieve and disclose Federal Tax Information (FTI).  With your consent, we can obtain tax return information automatically from the IRS to help you complete the FAFSA form.  If you don't provide consent, you will not be eligible for student aid, including grants and loans.  You must provide consent even if you didn't file a U.S. tax return or any tax return at all.

If you don't provide consent, you will not be eligible for student aid, including grants and loans.  You must provide consent even if you didn't file a U.S. tax return or any tax return at all.

Contributor is any individual (student, student spouse, biological or adoptive parent, or the parent's spouse), required to provide consent and approval for federal tax information (FTI) along with their signature on the FAFSA form.

How Does It Benefit Me?

Students and families will see a different measure of their ability to pay for college and will also experience a change in the methodology used to determine aid.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is now replaced by the Student Aid Index (SAI) (may be as low as -1500).

  1. Maximum Pell Grant - Applicants may qualify for a Maximum Pell Grant based on family size, adjusted gross income (AGI), and poverty guidelines.  Students qualifying for a Maximum Pell Grant will have an SAI between negative $1,500 and $0.
  2. Student Aid Index (SAI) - Applicants who do not qualify for a Maximum Pell Grant my still qualify if their calculated SAI is less than the maximum Pell Grant award for the award year.  The applicant's Pell Grant award for full-time enrollment will be equal to the maximum Pell Grant for the award year minus SAI.  The Pell Grant will be adjusted if the applicant enrolls less than full time. or if the applicant's COA is less than the calculated Pell Grant award.
  3. Minimum Pell Grant - Applicants whose SAI is greater than the maximum Pell Grant award for the award year may still qualify for a Pell Grant, based on family size, AGI, and poverty guidelines.

What Changes Might Impact Me?

The FAFSA will still ask how many family members will attend college in the upcoming year but it will no longer use it in the new SAI formula.  You may request your college to review any extenuating circumstances you might have in regards to multiple students in college at the same time.

We know you didn't have to do this last year. The primary or custodial parent in a divorce or separation situation for a dependent student will be the parent who provides the most financial support.  If one parent pays child support to the other parent that parent is the parent of record, assuming support amounts to more than half of the student's support. This is new with the 2024-2025 FAFSA.

Assets now include the annual amount of child support received (previously included as income in the EFC formula).  The recipient of the child support will be asked to report the amount received in the last complete calendar year (not 2 years prior).

The definition of family size has changed to align with the number of individuals reported as dependents on the applicant's (if independent) or applicant's parents' (if dependent) U.S. tax return.  Applicants may update family size if it changes after filing the tax return but the number transferred from the IRS will be masked so they will need to know that the number is from their taxes.

For dependent students, education savings accounts will only be counted as a parental asset if the account is designated for the student completing the FAFSA.  Previously, if a parent had education savings accounts for their other children, the value of those was also required to be counted.

Net worth of a farm/ranch now includes the value of a family farm/ranch.  However, the value of a family's primary residence is still excluded.  The net worth of a farm/ranch may include the fair market value of land, buildings, livestock, unharvested crops, and machinery actively used in investment farms or agricultural or commercial activities, minus any debts held against those assets.

Users without a Social Security number can and need to create a StudentAid.gov account to access the FAFSA form (option available by December).