ED Updates College Presidents on FAFSA Rollout, Urges Schools to Extend Decision Dates

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Managing Editor

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, in a letter to college presidents sent on Friday, provided updates on progress the department has made in implementing the 2024-25 FAFSA and outlined steps schools could take to be best prepared for processing applicant data, which has now begun flowing to institutions.

“We know the process of overhauling a broken system—making the most significant upgrade to the FAFSA form in more than 40 years—has put great pressure on you and your institutions,” Cardona wrote. “I appreciate the feedback you’ve given us over these last several months as we navigated this change together.”

In the letter Cardona provided three key updates to the FAFSA rollout.

First, he told college presidents that the Department of Education (ED) is “ramping up” the delivery of Institutional Student Information Records (ISIRs). Currently, per Cardona’s letter, ED has received more than 5.82 million applications, which the department aims to fully process and send to schools “about two weeks after we reach peak processing capacity.”

Cardona went on to remind college presidents that ED has begun to deploy dedicated federal and nonfederal personnel to support nearly 300 schools and assist them in processing aid packages. He encouraged institutions to reach out to the College Support Concierge mailbox if they need assistance.

Lastly, Cardona reiterated that the department is reducing verification requirements, and suspending routine program reviews.

The letter went on to outline the next steps of the FAFSA rollout where Cardona urged all institutions to prepare for ISIR delivery. To do this, Cardona urged presidents to ensure that their teams have “completed their Student Aid Internet Gateway (SAIG) mailbox agreement, downloaded and configured key software – such as EDconnect – and developed staffing plans for processing.”

Aside from preparations, Cardona also urged schools to extend their decision dates so that all students have time, if needed, to submit corrected FAFSA forms, and ensure that students have equitable access to student aid.

NASFAA joined other higher education associations in January to urge institutions to extend their enrollment, scholarship, and financial aid deadlines beyond the traditional May 1 date.

Cardona also requested that institutions develop strategies to ensure returning students fill out the FAFSA form.

The letter also included a number of resources provided by ED as well as an announcement that Cardona will host a webinar on Monday, March 18, at 12:00 p.m. ET with senior officials to brief from Federal Student Aid (FSA) to brief schools on the latest on FAFSA data transmissions.


Publication Date: 3/18/2024

Anthony S | 3/18/2024 2:4:47 PM

I think we all wish that this could have been delayed another year or two.

"Streamlining the FAFSA was a top priority for Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). The now-retired politician introduced legislation in 2018 to reduce the 108-question form. The application had long been derided as too complicated and too labor-intensive for families, asking for detailed tax information.

Congress told the Education Department to have all of the work wrapped up by October 2022. Despite warnings from staff in the student aid office that it would be impossible to meet that deadline, a Trump administration official assured lawmakers it could be done, according to three people involved in the matter who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Lawmakers only expected the Education Department to redesign the application and update the underlying formula, according to people involved in negotiations, not replace the entire processing system."

Source - https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2024/03/11/how-new-fafsa-problems-began/

James K | 3/18/2024 1:33:34 PM

I agree with Korinne - this was a misguided communication. I wish the Secretary and Mr. Cordray had been as concerned about my success as they encouraged my President to be. Thankfully, I have a very supportive administration that understands the "too little, too late" of this communication.

Korinne P | 3/18/2024 12:43:27 PM

Just like Vincent, I'm pretty wary of jumping on the "free assistance" bandwagon. It wouldn't shock me if, down the line, these schools are "randomly" selected for program reviews. It is also frustrating when they shoot off messages to the president, chancellor, or CEO without looping us in. I know that plenty of my colleagues have cabinets that panic when anything is sent from ED. This kind of misguided communication just ends up causing more confusion than it's worth. They need to do better.

Vincent F | 3/18/2024 11:48:06 AM

The offer of "free" assistance is laughable. I wouldn't touch that with a ten foot pole. It's bound to come with dozens of caveats and time-consuming reporting requirements.

Armand R | 3/18/2024 9:45:07 AM

Thomas K - I agree. He could receive his notice in November.

Thomas K | 3/18/2024 9:3:14 AM

He should resign or be fired.

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