The FAFSA won’t be available until Oct. 1 but in the meantime you can download the EFC Formula Guide for the current year and calculate your Expected Family Contribution.

This year’s FAFSA EFC formula includes nominal inflation-related adjustments to the Income Protection Allowance, Adjusted Net Worth of a Business or Farm, and Assessment Rates and, for the first time in many years, actually increases the Asset Protection Allowance, though not by a meaningful amount. More details on the FAFSA’s components are here.

The big question for many families this year is: How do I show on the FAFSA that my income has changed since the 2019 tax year that they’re using? Two possibilities:

  • Any parent who has lost their job should check the “Dislocated Worker” box. The FAFSA also has checkboxes for families receiving TANF, Medicaid, SNAP, Free or Reduced Lunch or WIC.
  • Since the FAFSA– unlike the CSS Profile– does not have an open-ended field to describe any changes in the family’s circumstances, families may need to go through the Professional Judgement (PJ) process after receiving acceptances and financial aid offers to present their updated circumstances.

Unfortunately, the Department of Education says that families must fill out the FAFSA “as is” and then appeal their award: “Complete the FAFSA questions as instructed on the application (including the transfer of tax return and income information), submit your FAFSA form, then contact the school you plan to attend to discuss how your current financial situation has changed. Note that the school’s decision is final and cannot be appealed to ED.”

Families often ask whether their student can file as independent and thus not be required to report parent income and assets. “Independent” has a variety of requirements, depending on the topic, and those for the FAFSA are quite onerous for undergraduates. The easiest one might be that the student was born before Jan. 1, 1998. The full list of qualifying criteria is on page 3 of the Formula Guide.

Got all that? Here’s the 2021-2022 EFC Formula Guide.