Education Department Requests Colleges and Universities Extend Enrollment Deadlines Due to FAFSA Delays

The department encouraged institutions to allow students additional time to complete their FAFSA forms and make enrollment decisions.
portrait of Margaret Attridge
Margaret Attridge
Read Full Bio


Margaret Attridge is a news reporter for BestColleges focusing on higher education news stories in California. She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in May 2022 with a BA in journalism and government and politics....
Published on March 22, 2024
Edited by
portrait of Darlene Earnest
Darlene Earnest
Read Full Bio

Editor & Writer

Darlene Earnest is a copy editor for BestColleges. She has had an extensive editing career at several news organizations, including The Virginian-Pilot and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She also has completed programs for editors offered by the D...
Learn more about our editorial process
Image Credit: Claflin University / Contributor / Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) / Getty Images

  • The release of the new FAFSA was delayed by almost three months and has suffered technical delays during its rollout.
  • The Department of Education is encouraging colleges and universities to adjust their decision deadlines due to the delays.
  • Under the traditional enrollment deadline of May 1, students would likely only have a few weeks to review their financial aid offers and commit to a school.
  • An estimated 140 institutions have pushed back their decision dates to mid-May or June.

The Department of Education (ED) is urging colleges and universities to extend enrollment and payment deadlines for students amid delays in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process.

In a letter to presidents and chancellors, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said the department has been encouraged to see many institutions adjust their decision dates and payment deadlines to allow students and their families to make the best college decision possible. He also urged schools that have not yet adjusted their deadlines to do so.

Around 140 schools have extended their enrollment deadlines to mid-May or early June, according to a database maintained by admissions counselor Danny Tejada.

Institutions on the list include:

  • The University of California system
  • The California State University system
  • University of Massachusetts campuses
  • University of Minnesota campuses
  • The City University of New York (CUNY) and the State University of New York (SUNY) systems

ED rolled out the “Better FAFSA” on Dec. 30 — almost three months later than the usual Oct. 1 launch date, leading to a shorter application submission period for students compared to previous years.

Additionally, the FAFSA did not consider inflation in its financial aid formula, prompting ED to announce in January that it would delay sending student information to institutions until mid-March so that it could adjust its formula.

A spokesperson from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators told BestColleges at the time that under normal circumstances, schools typically receive FAFSA applicant data within 1-3 business days after they apply.

The timeline for transforming the data into a financial aid offer may vary depending on the institutions, with financial aid administrators typically requiring a couple of weeks to compile a financial aid package. As a result, students this year should expect to receive a financial aid award letter in April, the spokesperson said.

And, with College Decision Day on May 1, there is a possibility students won't have enough time to review financial aid offers and commit to a college or university due to the delays.

ED Offers Assistance

In the letter, ED outlined several changes this year to speed up FAFSA processing. They included sending federal workers and financial aid experts to hundreds of schools to facilitate the processing of aid packages and ramping up the number of Institutional Student Information Records (ISIRs) they are sending to schools.

The department also previously announced it has reduced verification requirements and has suspended new program reviews through June 2024.

According to the National College Attainment Network (NCAN), as of March 8, just over 30% of seniors had submitted a FAFSA, compared to over 46% of seniors at the same time last year.

The alarm bells sounding about the class of 2024 are so loud because they threaten to disrupt this positive momentum, NCAN said in a Feb. 5 statement concerning the breakdown of the submission trends.

The stakes are high: Students' postsecondary plans are on the line, and some students will, unfortunately, likely pursue other paths if they cannot get the financial aid they need to go to college.