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 February 1, 2024.

Why should I file the FAFSA?

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.

What do I need for the FAFSA?

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.

When can I file the FAFSA?

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. 


FAFSA Filing Deadlines

The results of your FAFSA or the expected family contribution will be sent to each school you list on the FAFSA. Carroll's priority deadline for receipt of the FAFSA is February 1 of this year year. 



Why did the Department of Education Change the FAFSA Process?

In March of 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.

What Documents Do I Need to Complete the FAFSA?

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

Why Do I need and FSA ID?

An FSA ID serves as your log on and signature stamp for all federal websites.

What Does it Mean to Provide Consent?

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.

What Happens if I Don't Provide Consent?

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.


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 replaced by the Student Aid Index (SAI) (may be as low as -1500)
  • Pell Grant eligibility will be determined in three steps:
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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 Happens If We Have Two in College at the Same Time?

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.

Why do I Have to Put the Parent with the Larges Income on the FAFSA if they support me 50/50?-I Didn't Have to Last year.

The primary or custodial parent in a divorce or separated 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 parent of record, assuming support amounts to more than half of student's support.  This is new with the 2024-2025 FAFSA.

Where do we report Child Support "received" on the FAFSA now?

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).

How has the Definition of Family Size Changed?

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.

How do we report Educational Savings Accounts?

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.

What has changed in reporting assets such as Farms, Ranches and Businesses?

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.

The net worth of a business is no longer limited to those with more than 100+ full-time employees.  Applicants will be asked to report the net worth of all businesses, regardless of the size of the business.

My Parents Aren't Citizens, How are they going to be Verified for the Electronic Signature?

Users without a Social Security number can and need to create an FSA ID and access the FAFSA form (option available by December).