Letter on FAFSA Rollout and Delays

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: 

NASFAA Resources You Can Use

What NASFAA Has Asked the Department to Do

  • Keep verification selection rates low, and permit schools to accept electronic copies of verification materials, including electronic signatures
  • Temporarily pause standard program reviews and other non-urgent oversight activities, except in instances of suspected fraud or known abuses through peak processing season
  • Without delaying any of the actual implementation, give schools more time to prepare and provide gainful employment and financial value transparency data beyond the July 1, 2024 reporting deadline

What You Can Do for Students

  • Provide flexibility on FAFSA priority deadlines, recognizing that prolonged bugs are preventing some users from accessing the form
  • Consider extending enrollment commitment deadlines beyond the traditional May 1 date, as many institutions did during the pandemic

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.

Sincerely, 

 
Helen Faith
Justin Draeger
Helen Faith, FAAC®
NASFAA 2023-24 National Chair
Justin Draeger
NASFAA President & CEO

 

Publication Date: 1/31/2024


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