Students express frustration over FAFSA delays

According to the US Office of Federal Student Aid, 17.6 million FAFSA forms are processed every year.
According to the US Office of Federal Student Aid, 17.6 million FAFSA forms are processed every year.
Selena Li

Many college students rely on financial aid to fund their post-secondary education. However, this year, federal aid delays have prevented many from making their college decisions. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), has had many technological malfunctions since December 2023.

In 2020, Congress passed the FAFSA Simplification Act, aiming to make the questionnaire easier for students to navigate. The act simplified around 108 questions to 18 questions that could be completed within 10 minutes. Although the form is shorter, it has raised concerns for students receiving financial aid packets.

Initially, the Department of Education moved the opening of the FAFSA application from October to December. During the “soft-launch” of the application, multiple malfunctions occurred, as it was unable to save or allow students to get on the website, according to NBC.

For most colleges, FAFSA determines how much aid a student receives at a school, yet it has been delayed multiple times due to errors found in the calculations. According to CNN, the Department of Education identified a vendor’s calculation error, which impacts thousands of financial aid forms. This adds one more delay to the process while commitment deadlines draw near.

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While some schools have adjusted their commitment deadlines to May 15 or even June 1, many still maintain the traditional May 1 commitment day, causing increased stress and pressure for incoming college freshmen across the nation. 

“It’s really frustrating because it’s hard to tell where I can go and what I can afford. It’s making the decision even more difficult than it is already,” senior Eileen Lane said.

Senior Sophia Wong feels similarly. “With all this trouble with financial aid, that’s just an added layer of stress that people are experiencing and then they can’t have a good senior year,” Wong said. 

While the FAFSA is not necessarily the deciding factor for all students in their choice of college, it is still an important aspect that students consider. Despite the fact that FAFSA has been delayed, many private colleges like Boston College or Cornell University, have depended on using the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile to determine student financial aid for the incoming class of 2028. However, a large portion of colleges do not use the CSS profile. 

“The problem is more for people who are lower income, especially, because it’s more of […] a deciding factor,” Wong said.

RM Counselor Brigid McKelvey provides insight on what students can do while they wait for their financial aid offers. “I do encourage [students] to check in with their schools to see if all their documents have been received and if their information has been processed, just to make sure that the hold up is about the FAFSA process, not something…on their end that they can do.” 

Mrs. McKelvey also advises students to keep a lookout on financial aid advice that some may not know of, “Ms. Miller is a great resource, our college and career coordinator, […] Fastweb is a good scholarship search engine that’s very reputable, so you can look at that as well, [and] an organization in Maryland called MHEC (the Maryland Higher Education Commission). They offer need-based scholarships; if you’re applying to a school in Maryland, you want to make sure that your FAFSA goes to MHEC and their programming.”

Students and colleges have had no other choice but to remain patient these past few months. As the commitment deadlines approach, there is some hope that aid packages roll out. Rich Cordray, COO of Federal Student Aid, made a statement on April 15th stating, “We are eager to help schools continue to package aid to students as soon as possible.”


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