The FAFSA Is Now Delayed. Here’s How That Could Impact Students

The delay in releasing the new FAFSA form may impact when students are approved for financial aid.
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Matthew Arrojas
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Matthew Arrojas is a news reporter at BestColleges covering higher education issues and policy. He previously worked as the hospitality and tourism news reporter at the South Florida Business Journal. He also covered higher education policy issues as...
Published on March 22, 2023
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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...
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  • The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form has historically been available by Oct. 1.
  • A new version of the FAFSA added obstacles for Federal Student Aid, meaning it won't hit this date.
  • A delay could negatively affect students relying on institutional aid to afford tuition. However, the FSA has worked on ways to try to avert problems for financial aid offices.

The new-and-improved Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form won't arrive until December, two months later than usual.

That delay could have impacted the financial aid awards of millions of students. However, Federal Student Aid's (FSA) carefully laid-out roadmap for the form's rollout could avert disaster in financial aid offices across the U.S.

Congress directed FSA to create the simplified FAFSA in 2020 and later granted FSA an extension to institute the new form. However, experts had long thought it doubtful that FSA would release the new FAFSA by Oct. 1, which is historically the date the form is available to students.

FSA confirmed Tuesday that the 2024-25 FAFSA wouldn't be available until December 2023.

The office did promise to release helpful information for institutions, counselors, and families over the next nine months to minimize any potential damage due to the delay.

For example, FSA stated it would release Pell Grant lookup tables this spring. This will help financial aid offices and high school counselors determine how much in Pell Grants a student is eligible for in the upcoming school year.

Jill Desjean, senior policy analyst at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), told BestColleges it's an important step in convincing many students it's worth filling out the FAFSA to begin with.

Most importantly, she said, is that administrators now have a timeline to work with.

"With enough lead time, we should be able to get everything done that we need to," Desjean said.

The delay to December may throw some schools' plans out of whack, she added. The FAFSA has dropped on Oct. 1 for many years now, which has some campuses accustomed to sending out financial aid offers as soon as mid-October. Plans will need to be revised, but FSA's timeline at least gives administrators more clarity into how they will need to rearrange deadlines.

A delay paired with a lack of information could have been disastrous for many students and financial aid administrators.

Desjean said FSA's guidance allows the different departments to prepare for the new FAFSA appropriately. For example, the guidance says schools can expect a final student record layout in October.

This is important information for the software providers — either internal or external — that design financial aid management systems.

FSA's roadmap may avoid last-minute chaos.

Still, previous research shows financial aid administrators were skeptical of FSA's ability to adequately prepare them for the revised FAFSA. A February poll of 276 financial aid administrators from NASFAA found many had little confidence in the Department of Education's (ED) ability to hit key milestones.

NASFAA's survey also asked administrators to rank the top barriers to implementing the simplified FAFSA. The most common answers were lack of time (59%) and lack of guidance from ED (58%).

Desjean suspects that this lack of trust likely stems from ED's lack of transparency early in the FAFSA implementation process. Now that FSA has a timeline, however, she believes financial aid administrators will be more confident in the department's ability to meet these timelines.

"It was just the lack of information," she said. “When we weren't hearing anything, we thought it must be worse than we thought."

There still is uncertainty as to when parents and students will be able to create FSA IDs, she added. That will be the next helpful deadline FSA announces.