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What to know about the new FAFSA student aid form

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
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The updated FAFSA forms were released Dec. 31— three months later than usual.

Applying for financial aid to attend college or trade school can be an overwhelming experience. This year’s free application for financial student aid form, or FAFSA, received an overhaul for the first time in decades. After a three-month delay, the form is now available for students and families to fill out, though technical difficulties have caused further delays.

Vermont Edition spoke with Patrick Leduc, vice president and COO of the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC) and Sarah Soule, a post-secondary planning coordinator at Middlebury Union High School, about the current state of the financial aid process.

Why the FAFSA's important

While filling out a long form is no fun, it's through FAFSA that students receive funding. "It opens up the door for Pell Grants, teach grants, and other federal dollars," Leduc said. "It is the trigger for how VSAC starts the process of working with you to access state dollars for funding education, and it's how institutions help to navigate what they can provide. It's really the beginning of the entire process."

And it's not just college-bound students who need to fill out FAFSA. "We encourage anyone who is considering anything that they want to do in terms of educational experiences, be it higher ed, trade school, whatever, for the 2024-2025 academic year, to fill out the FAFSA," Soule said.

Pell grant expansion

Federal Pell grants don't require repayment and prioritize people who demonstrate the most need. The updated FAFSA expands the eligibility for Pell grants. "More people are going to receive federal dollars, and more people are going to max out their Pell grant," Leduc said.

Opportunities for Vermont students

Vermont households earning less than $75,000 qualify for free tuition at the Community College of Vermont, or CCV, through the 802 Opportunity program. Leduc also talked about the CCV and UVM two-plus-two program. "You can go to CCV for two years, then go right into UVM and finish your degree, and get your bachelor's degree," Leduc said.

Citing these programs, Soule said she's seen an increase in students from Middlebury Union High School continuing their educations in-state.

If you have questions, ask for help

Soule has been working in her field for 42 years, starting as an admissions counselor at Champlain College before switching to "the other side of the desk," as she called it. If parents or students have questions the aid process, she suggested talking to college financial aid officers. "They're wonderful at putting the puzzle pieces together," she said.

Leduc also encouraged listeners to reach out to VSAC for FAFSA support and guidance around other forms of aid for college, graduate, or other post-secondary education options.

Broadcast at noon Monday, Jan. 8, 2023; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

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Mikaela Lefrak is the host and senior producer of Vermont Edition. Her stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work.
Andrea Laurion joined Vermont Public as a news producer for Vermont Edition in December 2022. She is a native of Pittsburgh, Pa., and a graduate of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine. Before getting into audio, Andrea worked as an obituary writer, a lunch lady, a wedding photographer assistant, a children’s birthday party hostess, a haunted house actor, and an admin assistant many times over.