Waco, Texas (KWKT) – There are changes coming to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – also known as FAFSA – for the 2024 school year.

The FAFSA Simplification Act passed in 2020 will expand student eligibility for federal Pell Grants.

Central Texas A&M staff say this change can encourage more students to enroll in class.

“The previous application was about 108 questions, I believe. Now, it’s only 36, so it’s not going to be such an intimidating factor with students seeking that financial aid, which sometimes it can make or break a student with the whole anxiety of going back to school,” said Drew Woodward, A&M Central Texas coordinator of student financial assistance.

Woodward says the new FAFSA factors in more education-related expenses as well as other expenses.

“Because, you know, just because you … make so much money doesn’t mean you have that much money to put towards college,” said Woodward.

In comparison to the Expected Family Contribution, which started at $0 on the application, the Student Aid Index (SAI), which is a student’s eligibility index number, will start at negative $1500 to increase a student’s chances for Pell Grant eligibility.

Woodward says the FAFSA also took away questions about drug convictions and selective service. Students in approved prison education programs are now re-eligible for a Pell Grant.

Another change with the FAFSA simplification act will give students back their eligibility if their school has closed down or lost accreditation.

“Seeing that being a financial aid advisor, students they’ll go to, for instance, places like Vista or IT Tech and use an absurd amount of Pell Grant money and – boom – when they want to really go for their bachelor’s degree, they have none left. And this allows them to kind of get that time back,” Woodward said, referring to Vista College and ITT Technical Institute, both of which are now closed.

He says the new opening for the FAFSA application will be Dec. 1.