Education Department admits ‘challenging year’ for FAFSA: ‘We’re not at the point we would like to be’

The Department of Education acknowledged Thursday that it’s been a “challenging year” for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process as officials are desperate to get more forms filled out.

“We’re not at the point we would like to be at,” Under Secretary of Education James Kvaal told reporters before revealing about 7.7 million FAFSA applications have been received from college applicants. Around 18 million forms are filed in a typical year.

“Here’s my message: If you have been waiting for the dust to settle before you fill out a FAFSA, make a correction, the time is now,” Kvaal said. “If you’re a student waiting for your college to send a financial aid offer, please know that you are not alone. Colleges are working hard to get you the information you need.”

Out of the FAFSA applications, 1.2 million need corrections from students or contributors, mainly needing signatures or permission to receive tax data from the IRS. Another 700,000 FAFSA forms have errors due to incorrect tabulation of contributions from assets. Lastly, 1.2 million applications were processed with incorrect tax data.

Kvaal noted that some colleges have been able to send out financial aid packages while others are waiting for more corrections before starting the process. The department hopes all the needed corrections will be in by the beginning of next month.

The department noted that during its FAFSA Week of Action this week, numerous workshops and other events have been set up around the country to ensure students fill out the forms.

The announcement comes as advocates, students and colleges have been frustrated with the lack of accountability the department has shown over the botched FAFSA rollout, going back to when the updated forms were first released last year.

Schools have had to push back their decision deadlines, which typically happen May 1, due to all the delays in the FAFSA process.

While FAFSA applications normally begin in October and some schools have all of their offers out as early as March, this time schools did not even receive the information they needed to give out financial aid packages until last month, and much of it was flawed.

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