Republican Leaders Call for an Investigation of ED’s “Botched” FAFSA Rollout

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Senior Staff Reporter

Congressional Republicans, citing continued delays from the Department of Education (ED), are calling on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to formally examine how the 2024-25 FAFSA rollout is impacting students and schools.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), spearheaded a letter to GAO on Wednesday, requesting the agency look into the challenges faced by students and schools in applying for and administering federal student aid during the 2024-25 cycle.

Twenty-six Republicans joined Foxx and Cassidy in the letter and urged GAO to also look into whether ED has provided sufficient guidance and communications to schools that are incorporating FAFSA changes into their financial aid awarding process, and whether the department has provided students with sufficient information needed to complete the form and navigate the aid process.

Further, the members asked GAO to examine whether ED has taken any steps to address the challenges stemming from the department's FAFSA soft launch, and what they are doing in preparation for next year’s cycle.

“The goal of FAFSA simplification was in part to make the whole process easier for students and their families,” the lawmakers wrote. “This is possible only if [ED] is providing students with clear communications on how to navigate the new application.”

The letter comes just a day after the department announced that it will update 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. However, the department failed to give a timeline of when or how the new tables will be implemented, causing concerns among the higher education community around delays in financial aid offers to students.

“Schools need guidance on the new process so they can adjust their own financial aid systems to account for the FAFSA changes,” the letter read. “However, initial feedback from students and schools indicates that [ED]’s current outreach efforts are falling short.”

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, in response to ED’s commitment to updating the tables, commended ED for making the adjustment, but said he would continue to conduct “oversight” of the department’s implementation of the FAFSA.

“Moving forward, the Department must do everything it can to prevent further delays in implementing the new FAFSA form because it can negatively impact students,” Scott said. “When students are unaware of the full amount of financial aid they are entitled to, it can impact their decision to pursue a college degree.”

Last week, Scott has also posed a number of questions to ED requesting updated information to detail the department’s “readiness to support” students and families through the 2024-25 FAFSA cycle.

 

Publication Date: 1/25/2024


Craig S | 1/25/2024 7:1:13 PM

It's almost as if Congress had no role in properly resourcing the agency tasked with implementing the legislation it passed...

Carson W | 1/25/2024 1:52:53 PM

@ Lee Ann Thank you! I agree shut it down. We can do better.

Carson W | 1/25/2024 1:51:23 PM

Hello I did a FAFSA last Friday night and was very disappointed. Last Saturday I worked with high school seniors. to complete their FAFSA. I received allot complaints about the no SAI despite email confirmation they opted in. No reason listed for no SAI was irksome for them. Also folks complained they needed a copy of their 2022 taxes when they expecting data matching. Someone else set up the workshop. We spent allot time getting FSA ids etc. At the end 3 families could not get FSA IDs and should have been able to.

Lavonna R | 1/25/2024 12:23:10 PM

They should just retract the new simplication 24/25 FAFSA and update the old FAFSA from 23/24 until they have fixed all the issues. If not, I think we are taking 10 steps back because a lot of people will be mailing in the paper FAFSA!

James C | 1/25/2024 11:51:32 AM

This was supposed to be FAFSA SIMPLIFICATION not COMPLICATION! DOE tried to change too much! Sure, less questions on the FAFSA is great, but then they changed EFC to SAI, added the concept of a contributor, changed the way parents without a SSN create an FSA ID (which has been a disaster), etc. They changed too much! We as financial aid administrators could see this coming but no one listened!!

Perry D | 1/25/2024 10:36:44 AM

Instead of "The Year that Never Ends", this seems to be the "Year that Will Never Start!"

David S | 1/25/2024 10:26:18 AM

Can we please see Congresswoman Foxx and Senator Cassidy and their 26 friend's letter/s in which they demanded answers from the Department of Education as to how and why they mishandled every form of statutory loan forgiveness and borrower defense to repayment claims between 1/20/17 and 1/20/21?

Lee Ann T | 1/25/2024 8:58:37 AM

Time to retire the whole DOE and let the universities handle the funds.

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