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Delays in federal financial aid form leaves students in limbo during college acceptance season

To understand what’s going on, we need to go back to 2020, when Congress ordered an update to what used to be considered a notoriously difficult and complex FAFSA form, hoping to expand federal student aid to more low income students. The new application now has only 50 questions, compared to the 108 questions on the old form. It’s also designed to make more generous calculations for financial aid eligibility.

But the revamp meant the new applications weren’t available until Dec. 31 last year, three months later than usual. And it wasn’t until last Sunday that colleges first began receiving the federal data they need to put together these financial aid packages, which has left many students and their families frustrated, confused and, by some accounts, giving up hope altogether.

In addition to the delayed form, many families experienced difficulties with the new system.

“Unfortunately, the result of that is we’re seeing a significant decline in the number of families filling out the FAFSA,” Mayotte said. “In fact, it’s estimated that by the time this all shakes out, FAFSA submissions might be down by as much as 30%.

I’m very confident that the errors that we’re seeing are going to shake out, and in the end, these families will be okay. But I do worry, and I think the industry as a whole is worried about that 30% that may, as you put it, just throw up their hands for this year.”

In response to these problems, Mayotte said colleges and universities are being encouraged to extend their deadlines beyond May 1 to give students more time to figure out financial aid.