Delays in FAFSA Data Release Pose New Challenges for Colleges

Financial aid information regarding millions of students that was originally supposed to be available to colleges and universities by late January will now be delayed by more than a month.

The Education Department announced on Tuesday that it will start sending batches of student information based on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to schools and state agencies in the first half of March. During this time, students will also have the opportunity to make corrections to their forms.

This timeline delay will further push back when schools receive crucial data about the financial capabilities of families to afford college tuition for the upcoming academic year.

Undersecretary of education, James Kvaal, acknowledged the frustration with the slow rollout of changes to the FAFSA form. However, he stated that the process of filling out the FAFSA is now easier and faster than ever before, as the federal financial aid application is being modernized.

Kvaal said, “Moving the federal financial aid application into the 21st century isn’t a small endeavor.”

Delaying the availability of financial information comes after the Education Department corrected an error in the calculation of families’ incomes. The new income formula, launched in December, did not accurately account for inflation. Although the mistake was fixed, some advocates argue that it should have been implemented earlier.

Traditionally, schools receive financial information about applicants soon after the FAFSA becomes available on October 1. This information is crucial for colleges to determine their financial aid offers, and families use these offers to make decisions about affordable schools.

However, this year, the Education Department disrupted the process due to its efforts to simplify the federal financial aid system for less affluent families. While these simplifications aim to allow more students to qualify for federal help, the rollout has encountered significant delays causing uncertainty for families and colleges.

Colleges Will Be ‘Left Scrambling,’ Critics Say

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) expressed concern over these delays. NASFAA President Justin Draeger stated that the Biden administration’s continued delays could harm vulnerable students who rely on federal student aid.

Draeger said, “With this last-minute news, our nation’s colleges are once again left scrambling. They need to determine how to work within these new timelines to issue aid offers as soon as possible so that students who can’t afford higher education don’t pay the price for these missteps.”

Since the soft-launch of the new FAFSA form in late December, over 3.1 million applications have been submitted.

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