ED Announces Plans for 2024-25 FAFSA “Soft Launch”

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Senior Staff Reporter

The Department of Education (ED) in a notice published on Friday afternoon announced — with no specific timeline — that the days before and after December 31 will serve as a period to “monitor and respond in real time to potential issues” with the 2024-25 FAFSA application.

The impending soft launch of the program will allow students and families to access the FAFSA form; they will not need to resubmit the form once the soft launch ends. FSA stressed that users do not need to rush to complete the application as soon as the soft launch is available since FSA will not transmit Institutional Student Information Records (ISIRs) to schools until later in January. The announcement also hinted that FSA is expecting large volumes of applicants at one time, as officials shared the soft launch will include a “waiting room feature” as a means to control web traffic volume and “ensure optimal performance of the form.”

After completing the form during the soft launch period, applicants will receive a confirmation email notifying them of their submission date, along with an estimated Student Aid Index (SAI) and estimated Pell Grant eligibility. Applicants will receive their FAFSA Submission Summary and a notification once their ISIR has been sent to their selected schools, beginning in late January.

FSA also outlined potential situations students and families might come across while filling out their application — such as if maintenance is initiated while an applicant is filling out the form — and explained how site maintenance and the submission process could play out during the soft launch.

Friday’s notice follows increased pressure from lawmakers and the higher education community over concerns about how the delayed rollout could impact vulnerable student populations and underscored the importance of a clear communications campaign to keep schools informed about any changes to the application timeline. NASFAA just this week sent a letter to ED and FSA officials urging them to communicate realistic time frames and expectations to students.

Previously, the department has opened student aid based programs through a similar beta application. During the initial rollout of the Saving on A Valuable Education (SAVE) plan, students who were able to submit those forms, and receive a confirmation email, were able to enroll in the program without being required to resubmit their materials once the official application went live.

As a reminder, ED has committed to releasing the FAFSA by December 31, 2023 and institutions will begin receiving Institutional Student Information Records (ISIRs) by the end of January 2024. 

As the soft launch period unfolds, FSA urges institutions, state agencies, and college access partners to direct students and families to StudentAid.gov, which will be updated with the latest guidance.

 

Publication Date: 12/15/2023


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