It may be a few more months before millions of students and families know how much they will have to pay for college this fall.
He concerned unroll The new Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, form and the overhaul of the formula for determining who receives federal financial aid took a turn for the worse Tuesday when the Department of Education announced it would not transmit data to schools until early March. . The numbers were supposed to start coming in the next day.
Many schools rely on the FAFSA to help them determine how much of their institutional money to award in the form of grants that students will not have to repay. So until they have the information, any attempt to offer a quote to current or recently admitted students may only be a rough estimate.
This delay is a particular problem for low-income students, for whom a few thousand dollars' difference can determine whether they start school or finish a program they've already started.
One of the reasons for the delay is that the Department of Education was late in the update some of his calculations on inflation. Completing that work means that 1.3 million people will get larger Pell Grants (money the federal government makes available to low-income students) than they would otherwise.
The delay, however, disrupts the work of beleaguered financial aid officials at schools, who are trying to digest the biggest changes to the system in decades without shutting it down during the restart.
Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, a group that represents aid officials, said in a statement that “ongoing delays, reported at the last minute, threaten to harm students themselves and families who benefit from federal student aid.” intended to help.”
The real damage will depend on how agile its members are once they get the government data, and on the patience of families trying to make huge financial decisions without a clear idea of the price. “Due to the delay, current and newly admitted students will not know their estimated financial aid offer until very late in the spring semester,” Keith Williams, executive director of Michigan State University's financial aid office, said in an email. .
A big concern is that some low-income or first-generation students will simply give up and not bother completing their applications.
“It's no exaggeration to say that these types of delays directly affect how students make decisions,” said Jon Fansmith, senior vice president of government relations at 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 has not done so is students who have a parent who does not have a Social Security number. It's unclear why, a month after the new FAFSA form became available, those students are still unable to complete the process.
The Department of Education has faced a number of unusual challenges over the past year in addition to the FAFSA review. Last year he had to restart machinery to collect student loan payments after a multi-year payment pause due to the pandemic, and has also been changing the path supervises the administrators who collect those payments. The department had asked Congress more money to help him complete all the work, but he did not receive any extra money for the tasks.
Ann Carrns contributed reports.
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