Dear NASFAA Members,
It’s no secret that the last several months have been challenging for our profession, for our students, and for the higher education community as we navigate the launch of a completely overhauled FAFSA. The most recent news out of the U.S. Department of Education (ED) compounds those challenges even further.
The Department has announced that it will now update, in accordance with the law, the tables used to protect a portion of a family’s income and assets from being considered in the Student Aid Index (SAI) by inflation-adjusted amounts. This will result in lower SAIs for many students, as well as more students qualifying for additional federal Pell Grants. While this is good news for the many students who will now qualify for more need-based aid like Pell Grants, it comes with tradeoffs — primarily that institutions will not begin receiving applicant data until “the first half of March,” further delaying the delivery of aid offers to students.
The news of additional delays in FAFSA applicant data is disappointing, to say the least — something we’ve made clear in our public statements to countless press organizations, the U.S. Congress, and our colleagues at the Department. We’ve pointed out on more than one occasion that the grace and patience the Department has sought during this rollout has not always been granted to institutions that have been presented with aggressive legislative and regulatory implementation deadlines.
The future will undoubtedly contain conversations about rollout shortcomings and program oversight, but for now, our sole focus as higher education professionals must be to shield students and families from the negative outcomes of these delays.
As we absorb this news, we will do what we’ve always done: rise as a profession to tackle the challenges in front of us.
Today, we urge colleges and universities to provide flexibility to students and families as they consider their offers of admission and financial aid. During the pandemic, many institutions extended their enrollment, scholarship, and financial aid deadlines beyond the traditional May 1 date, and we — together with multiple other associations — urge institutions to make similar accommodations this year.
Students and families need time to consider their financial options before they can make informed college-going decisions.
Here are additional steps and resources to help you navigate the weeks ahead, as well as how NASFAA has advocated for flexibility from the Department:
In the days, weeks, and months to come, communication and cooperation will be critical to ensure our most vulnerable students are not harmed as a result of last-minute programming updates out of their control.
Let us continue to face these challenges with fortitude and purpose, knowing that we are working toward the shared goal of supporting students.
Helen Faith, FAAC®
NASFAA 2023-24 National Chair
NASFAA President & CEO
Publication Date: 1/31/2024