Anthology's Comprehensive Guide to Navigating FAFSA Simplification in Higher Education
We’ve all had those days when we come across a challenge so big, so daunting, all there is to do is look around to your team and say, “Well, we’re all in this together.” Higher education is no stranger to these kinds of days. For all our sports rivalries and “best school” rankings, higher education as a whole is facing a lot of changes in coming years. Among these is FAFSA Simplification, a welcoming name for a series of changes that will benefit many students while complicating work for all American higher education institutions.
While there has been a lot of conversation about this topic, it has been difficult to get exact guidance on what is changing, how institutions need to prepare, and what this will mean for financial aid offices moving forward. It’s one of those days—we’re all in this together.
Why is this sort of preparation important? FAFSA submissions are one of the first steps that students take in sharing information with your institution. Their hopes and dreams for college are tied up in this submission, and your institution’s ability to manage that information with ease and clarity can make all the difference for a student relying on financial aid. On the institutional side, processing financial aid is already a cumbersome process that often involves a mix of manual and automated steps. While the FAFSA Simplification Act may not take full effect until the 2024-2025 award year, missing even a single change could threaten to throw off critical workflows needed to handle a crush of applications in Fall 2024.
Many institutions are not feeling ready for these changes. A NASFAA survey from this year found that only 28% of respondents felt they were completely or mostly “on track” to complete their preparation for the FAFSA Simplification Act. Anthology clients are feeling much more optimistic, with most reporting they are feeling “on track” to adopt the FAFSA Simplification Act in a recent internal survey.
But no institution should feel left behind ahead of these big changes. Today, we’re happy to share our first FAFSA Simplification resource, the FAFSA Simplification Data Crosswalk. This resource is available to anyone—not just Anthology clients—and provides you with a detailed spreadsheet addressing the status of more than 900 ISIR codes based on Department of Education guidance. In this spreadsheet, you will find:
- Fields that are unchanged
- Fields with simple one-to-one adjustments
- Fields with significant one-to-many adjustments
- Fields that have been removed from the FAFSA
Our crosswalk works alongside NASFAA’s recently released comment code crosswalk to give you a huge head start on making updates for FAFSA simplification changes.
In addition to the Data Crosswalk, Anthology is pleased to announce the availability of two supplemental features added to Anthology® Student for the 2024-25 award year:
- The Student Aid Index (SAI) Calculator
- The new Campus-Based Programs Page
These two solutions work hand-in-hand to provide immense support when navigating FAFSA Simplification.
Utilization of the SAI Calculator takes FAFSA application responses, either manually entered or prepopulated with Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR) data, and allows users to calculate a custom Student Aid Index (SAI) for each learner. The new Campus-Based Programs Page helps institutions to review and report Federal Work-Study earnings paid to its students, which is then also captured within the student’s SAI calculation for the following year. While both of these new functionalities will be available only in the Anthology Student web application, the pair should help students and institutions alike in better understanding expected aid.
Navigating FAFSA Simplification successfully may seem daunting today, but it does not have to be frightening. Discovering and sharing best practices, processes, and solutions to challenges like this are exactly what makes higher education such a wonderful industry. As we navigate this together, we will be able to also share in empowering our institutions, staff, and all of the students we serve. We’re all in this together, and Anthology is here to help.
“The ISIR crosswalk is based on Anthology’s proprietary analysis of the 2024-2025 draft of the FAFSA Specifications Guide Volume 4-Record Layouts and Processing Codes May 2023 update vs 2023-2024 EDE Technical Reference July 2022. This analysis is for informational purposes only and is intended to assist you in cross-referencing ISIR information for 2023-2024 vs 2024-2025. Anthology is not providing legal advice to you, and any reliance on this ISIR crosswalk is at your own risk. The Department of Education will release future drafts and a final 2024-2025 FAFSA Simplifications Guide with additional updates. Please reference Knowledge Center Home for any subsequent updates.”
1 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®)
Kyle Harper is director of product marketing at Anthology, where he works to understand and support the diverse needs of learners, instructors, and administrators worldwide. Before joining Anthology, he spent seven years in higher education working in program development and institutional research at Harvard University and the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science. He holds a BFA from Emerson College and an MBA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.