Will the Selective Service System and FAFSA Change Soon? What's Next?
If you are 18 years old, you are currently required to register with the Selective Service to qualify for financial aid. You can register when you complete the FAFSA.
If you’re like most students, you’ll rely on some form of financial aid to pay for school. In fact, 86% of college students received financial aid during the 2017-2018 academic year, the last available data.
However, financial aid can have a catch. If your gender was assigned as male at birth, you’re currently required to register with the Selective Service system; otherwise, you’re ineligible for financial aid.
In recent years, there has been renewed discussion around the Selective Service system and the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA). Due to new laws, there will be changes to how the Selective Service system impacts financial aid eligibility.
What is the Selective Service System?
Under current laws, the U.S. military system will utilize a draft in the case of a national emergency.
The government created the Selective Service system in case a draft became necessary. The Selective Service system is a registration program that tracks the names of men eligible for military service.
With the existing structure, only men are required to register with the Selective Service system. Whether you are required to register or not is based on the gender you were assigned at birth, not your gender identity.
There is no draft currently in force. And, since 1973, the U.S. military has operated with an all-volunteer force. However, men between the ages of 18 and 25 still need to register with the Selective Service System. Citizens and immigrants living in the United States must register within 30 days of turning 18.
If you don’t register by the deadline, you will violate the Military Selective Service Act. It’s an offense punishable by up to five years of imprisonment and fines. You’ll also lose certain benefits, like the ability to secure federal jobs or financial aid.
How Does the Selective Service System Affect FAFSA?
If you want to take advantage of federal or financial aid, the Selective Service system is incredibly important. If your gender was assigned as male at birth, you must register with the Selective Service system. Otherwise, you aren’t eligible for federal financial aid, including grants and federal student loans.
There are several different ways to register, but one of the easiest can be completed when you submit the FAFSA. On the current FAFSA, the Selective Service section is on question 22:
“Most male students must register with the Selective Service system to receive federal aid. If you are male, are age 18-25, and have not registered, fill in the circle and we will register you.”
By filling in the corresponding circle, you consent to being registered with the Selective Service system. You’ve fulfilled your legal obligation, and will be eligible for financial aid.
What Changes Are Expected with Financial Aid and the Selective Service System?
At the end of 2020, Congress passed a legislative package that made significant changes to the financial aid system. The new H.R. 133 Consolidated Appropriations Act removed the requirement that male applicants register for the Selective Service before the age of 26 to get access to federal or state financial aid programs.
However, these changes won’t have an impact right away. Most of the bill’s provisions won’t go into effect until 2023, and the updated FAFSA won’t be available until October 1, 2022.
Exceptions to the Selective Service Requirements
Typically, you will have to register even if you have a disability or a chronic medical condition. The only exception is if you are homebound or confined to a long-term care facility starting before you were 18 and lasting until your 26th birthday.
Currently, women are not required to register with the Selective Service. However, that may change as women increasingly take on more roles within the military.
What to Do If You’re Not Eligible for Federal Aid
Whether you missed the registration deadline or simply don’t want to register for the Selective Service system, you may not qualify for federal financial aid. If that’s the case, there may be some other financing alternatives:
- Grants and Scholarships: Grants and scholarships are often offered by non-profit organizations and companies. Since these awards are not run by the federal government, they’re not subject to the Selective Service registration requirements.
- Institutional Aid: Some colleges have their own scholarships, grants, and student loan programs that can help replace federal aid.
- Private Loans: If you need to borrow money, private student loans — loans issued by banks, credit unions, or online lenders — can be valuable tools.
How to Check Your Registration Status
If you’ll be attending college before 2023 and will need federal or state financial aid, make sure that you have registered for the Selective Service system.
If you aren’t sure, you can check your registration status with the Selective Service system website.
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Kat Tretina is a freelance writer based in Orlando, FL. She specializes in helping people finance their education and manage debt. Her work has been featured in Forbes, The Huffington Post, MarketWatch, and many other publications.
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