Education Department Launches Financial Aid Awareness Campaign After Troubled Rollout

Following a bungled introduction to its updated financial assistance application, which was designed to streamline the process but ended up causing confusion, the Biden administration proclaimed April 15-19 as a “week of action” to encourage nervous students to finalize the form.

Officials at Noble Street College Prep are advising seniors to log in to their Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, daily to monitor its status. The U.S. Department of Education is working frantically to rectify months of errors, so changes to the system can occur unexpectedly.

“Updates occur in the wee hours, at times even during class,” remarked Michelle Ganti, the dean of college counseling at the Chicago charter school.

Seniors from Noble Street College Prep in Chicago visited the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on Tuesday. Counselors are encouraging more students to tour schools where they have been accepted during the FAFSA “week of action.” (Noble Schools)

In New York, the school district will collaborate with public libraries to host evening and weekend FAFSA sessions for students and families to receive guidance from college representatives and financial aid experts.

Similar FAFSA support initiatives will be taking place nationwide. However, questions linger: Is it too little, too late?

During a Wednesday House hearing called to address the “FAFSA fail,” criticism about the department’s errors came from both sides of the aisle.

“We need weeks of action,” remarked Kim Cook, CEO of the National College Attainment Network, during a congressional session on Wednesday. “We will have to explore ways to continuously support and reach out to students through the summer.”

Education Department officials promised to “continue to listen and be responsive to groups and advocates … who are aiding students and families through the challenges.”

They are pushing for more face-to-face events along with email campaigns and text reminders to prod families to submit the FAFSA. These combined efforts might boost completion rates, which are currently down by 40% compared to last year. Yet, with this year’s application process plagued by delays, experts and educators remain unconvinced that everything will go smoothly, emphasizing the urgency of assisting students in need.

“It’s challenging for us not to appear cynical in front of families and to maintain as much positivity as possible,” expressed financial aid expert Kim Nauer from The New School in New York. She actively communicates with counselors across the city and runs a website to keep families informed about the constantly changing situation. Notably, during a conversation with a 74 reporter on Thursday, the FAFSA website began allowing users to make amendments to their forms for the first time.

Participants at Wednesday’s House subcommittee hearing on FAFSA included Mark Kantrowitz of Cerebly, Inc.; Justin Draeger, president and CEO of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators; Kim Cook, CEO of the National College Attainment Network; and Rachelle Feldman, vice provost for enrollment at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. (House Committee on Education and the Workforce)

The groups most adversely affected by the delays are students likely to forgo college altogether this year and institutions that may face closure due to their dependency on low-income students relying on federal Pell grants.

Concerns are rising about potential long-term repercussions of this debacle, particularly in the next financial aid cycle for the 2025-26 academic year.

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