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FAFSA changes lead to delay of financial aid info for students, colleges

The Department of Education announced Tuesday that information in response to the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms won’t be given to colleges until March, dramatically reducing time frames for many students choosing their schools.

The department touted, however, that more than 3 million of the newly updated forms have been successfully submitted.

The information from the FAFSA forms was supposed to begin transferring this month but is now two months delayed.

Colleges traditionally take a few weeks to process the data, and students may not have their final financial aid offers from their prospective schools until April.

However, the traditional decision day for college applicants is May 1, leaving little time for applicants to compare offers.

The delay was caused by the department not fixing the income exemption guidelines in the FAFSA formula, which would have caused some students to lose additional aid. The department is working to fix the issue now.

“We remain committed to ensuring students and families have stable and secure access to more than $114 billion in federal financial aid. We know how crucial this support is to pursue higher education, particularly for the most underserved communities, and the positive ripple effects an education beyond high school makes in the lives of millions, their communities, and the country,” said Richard Cordray, head of the Federal Student Aid office.

The announcement adds further trouble for the department as the new FAFSA form rollout has been riddled with delays and difficulties.

The FAFSA forms normally come out in October, but the department said it needed more time and waited until the end of December.

When the form was finally made live, it was only active at select times for the first few days, causing confusion and frustration among applicants.

The forms themselves, however, have reportedly been easier and quicker to fill out.

The department highlighted Tuesday that 3.1 million students have filled out the applications.

“The Better FAFSA makes it as simple and easy as possible for families to get help paying for college, and updating our tables will help even more students get the help they need,” Under Secretary of Education James Kvaal said in a statement. “Updating our calculations will help students qualify for as much financial aid as possible.”

Dozens of Republican lawmakers recently sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office asking it to investigate the rollout of the FAFSA forms.

“I recently met with several leaders of Louisiana colleges who independently told me they are concerned about FAFSA. This rollout has been a disaster,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

“The Department of Education had three years to prepare the rollout of the updated FAFSA. Their inability to do their job has real consequences for students and families. These unacceptable delays from the Biden administration creates the real likelihood that many students will forgo college because they cannot choose a school without knowing their eligibility for student aid,” Cassidy added.

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