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