Another FAFSA Issue Could Further Delay Some Students’ Financial Aid

Yet another FAFSA misstep could force colleges and universities to delay financial aid award letters for some 200,000 students.
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Published on March 26, 2024
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  • The Department of Education sent incorrect student data to colleges and universities in early March.
  • As a result, the department will need to reprocess some FAFSA applications.
  • Some financial aid experts worry this will cause additional FAFSA processing delays.
  • This adds to what has been a tumultuous launch of the 2024-25 FAFSA.

Yet another issue with the 2024-25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) may further delay the financial aid award timeline.

The Department of Education (ED) announced Friday that a miscalculation in its FAFSA formula caused the department to send incorrect financial need data to colleges and universities in the U.S. The error reportedly will impact several hundred thousand students, according to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA).

This is the latest in a long-running list of issues tied to the department's launch of the new Simplified FAFSA form.

This is another unforced error that will likely cause more processing delays for students, NASFAA President and CEO Justin Draeger said in a statement. At this stage in the game and after so many delays, every error adds up and will be felt acutely by every student who is counting on need-based financial aid to make their postsecondary dreams a reality.

ED said the error impacts a small percentage of FAFSA applications delivered to schools before March 21.

The issue affects only dependent students. According to the department, the FAFSA processing system incorrectly calculated the need for financial aid for dependent students who reported assets.

ED added that this error did not affect 1.3 million of the 1.5 million student records it sent to institutions in March.

For students who are impacted, however, ED will have to reprocess their applications. In the meantime, the department urged college financial aid administrators to recalculate a student's aid eligibility to develop a tentative aid package without waiting to receive a reprocessed application.

It's unclear if this will be enough to prevent further processing delays.

The FAFSA generally becomes available to students on Oct. 1 each year, but the 2024-25 FAFSA didn't launch until Dec. 30. Numerous technical issues prevented many students from submitting their FAFSA even after it launched, and some of those issues took over two months to resolve.

ED also misstepped in creating its FAFSA formula.

The Simplified FAFSA was meant to consider inflation when creating financial aid offers. However, the initial launch did not have the appropriate formula, so ED needed to delay when it would send student information to colleges and universities.

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican and chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, lambasted the department for this latest error.

Biden's Education Department is at it again — today announcing it botched hundreds of thousands of aid packages for families with no timeline on fixing those errors, she said in a statement.

This is after a bungled launch filled with technical errors left millions of students and families still without information about their financial aid packages — critical information required to know what they can afford before enrolling in school.

Many worry that continued delays will influence students' ability to decide which college to attend before the standard College Decision Day on May 1.

ED Secretary Miguel Cardona recently urged colleges and universities to extend enrollment and payment deadlines due to FAFSA issues. Over 100 institutions, including all schools within the University of California system, have already delayed decision dates to mid-May or early June.