Over 100 congressional Democrats on Monday sent a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona pressing the Department of Education (ED) for answers on the delayed rollout of the 2024-25 FAFSA.
The letter, spearheaded by top education lawmakers including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), ranking member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, noted that implementation of the new FAFSA is a significant undertaking that ED was required to do with less congressional funding than anticipated.
However, the lawmakers expressed disappointment that inflation adjustments to the 2024-25 FAFSA, which are legally mandated by Congress, created further delays in this year’s FAFSA processing. Currently, ED states it will begin sending institutions Institutional Student Information Records (ISIRs) in the “first half of March,” with the tables used to protect a portion of a family’s income and assets from being considered in the Student Aid Index (SAI) updated and adjusted for inflation.
The letter also pressed ED to provide more clarity on how they will communicate any further delays in FAFSA processing, and further calls on the department to minimize the potential impact on students and families.
“Any delays in financial aid processing will most impact the students that need aid most, including many students of color, students from mixed status families, students from rural backgrounds, students experiencing homelessness or in foster care, first-generation students, and students from underserved communities,” the lawmakers wrote. “For institutions to support students’ ability to make informed decisions about their future, they need clear guidance and resources from the Department immediately on any and all next steps.”
The lawmakers did express support for ED’s newly announced FAFSA College Support Strategy, which is in partnership with NASFAA, and on Friday ED released more details of what the strategy will entail. Members of the financial aid community who are interested in working on this partnership should submit an interest form.
“We urge the Department to distribute these resources and tools to schools and institutions of higher education as quickly as possible, and to clearly communicate with stakeholders about the ways to access these resources and how these new resources will support students, families, and student aid administrators in submitting and processing the FAFSA form,” the lawmakers wrote.
The letter listed seven specific questions for the department to answer, including what specific date will ED begin sending ISIRs to institutions, how the department is communicating with students, families, and other stakeholders about delays with the 2024-25 FAFSA, whether ED will consider reducing the rate of students selected for additional verification, and more.
“The recent announcements from the Department were a welcome first step in addressing the many challenges students, counselors, aid administrators, and relevant stakeholders are facing in accessing, submitting, and processing the new FAFSA form,” the letter reads. “But now, it is imperative that we all work together to ensure no student falls through the cracks or faces unnecessary challenges in accessing the aid they are due.”
This letter from Democrats comes as congressional Republicans launched a website for students, guidance counselors, college admissions faculty, financial aid administrators and others, to report issues they are experiencing with the 2024-25 FAFSA application.
Publication Date: 2/13/2024