It could be a few more months before millions of students and families find out how much they’ll have to pay for college this fall.
The troubled rollout of the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, form — and revisions to the formula to determine who gets federal financial aid — grew worse on Tuesday when the Education Department announced that it would be using data on schools Will not broadcast. By the beginning of March. It was believed that the figures would start coming from the next day.
Many schools rely on the FAFSA to help determine how much of their institutional money to give away as grants that students will not have to repay. So unless they have the information, any attempt to offer price quotes to current or recently admitted students can only be a rough estimate.
This delay is a particular problem for low-income students, for whom a difference of a few thousand dollars can determine whether they start school or finish a program they have already started.
Education department is also a reason for delay late in updating Some of its calculations for inflation. Accomplishing that work means 1.3 million people will get larger Pell grants — money the federal government makes available to low-income students — than they otherwise would have.
However, the delays hamper the work of embattled financial aid officials at schools who are trying to digest the biggest changes to the system in decades without shutting it down during the reboot.
Justin Dreger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, a group representing aid officers, said in a statement that “continued delays – communicated at the last minute – threaten to harm the same students and families who receive federal student aid. Have the intention to help.”
The actual loss will depend on how agile its members are once they get the data from the government – and the patience of families trying to make huge financial decisions without a clear understanding of the costs. “Due to the delay, current and newly admitted students will not know their estimated financial aid offers until very late in the spring semester,” Keith Williams, executive director of Michigan State University’s financial aid office, said in an email.
A bigger concern is that some low-income or first-generation students will simply give up and not bother to complete their applications.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say that these types of delays directly impact the way students make decisions,” said John Fansmith, senior vice president of government relations for the American Council on Education, a university trade group.
According to the department, more than 3.1 million people have already filled out the FAFSA. However, one group that does not do so are students whose parents who does not have a social security number, It’s unclear why, even a month after the new FAFSA form became available, those students are still unable to complete the process.
On top of the FAFSA overhaul, the Department of Education has faced a number of unusual challenges in the past year. Last year, the machinery to collect student loan payments had to be restarted after a multi-year pandemic payment pause, and it has changing course It oversees the service providers who collect those payments. The department had asked Congress more money So that he could get help in completing all the work, but he did not get any extra money for the tasks.
Ann Carnes Contributed to the reporting.