Republican Proposal Would Force an October FAFSA Release

The Department of Education traditionally releases the FAFSA on Oct. 1 each year, but it did not in 2023. Lawmakers are trying to avoid future delays.
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Published on July 10, 2024
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  • The launch of the 2024-25 FAFSA was nearly three months later than usual.
  • Lawmakers are aiming to avoid another delayed release through new legislation.
  • The proposal would require the federal government to release the FAFSA by Oct. 1 each year.
  • Some experts say fixing the form's errors and technical glitches will be more important than a timely release.

Republican lawmakers are hoping to avoid another FAFSA fiasco by proposing a hard Oct. 1 deadline for the yearly form.

The Department of Education (ED) traditionally releases the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form on Oct. 1, but it failed to do so in 2023. ED released the form nearly three months later than usual — one contributor to the overall rocky rollout of the application required for most federal and state financial aid.

Lawmakers are introducing legislation requiring ED to meet the Oct. 1 deadline from now on.

U.S. Rep. Erin Houchin, a Republican representing Indiana in the House of Representatives, introduced the FAFSA Deadline Act on Friday. According to a statement from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Republican U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana will soon introduce companion legislation in the Senate.

"Timely access to the [FAFSA] is essential for making higher education accessible and affordable. The current flexibility in the FAFSA release date creates unnecessary obstacles and allows the Department of Education to string families along," Houchin said in a statement.

"The FAFSA Deadline Act will hold [ED] to a clear release date of Oct. 1, providing additional time and certainty for families as they prepare for their children's futures."

ED Secretary Miguel Cardona expects the department to release the 2025-26 FAFSA form by Oct. 1. While ED has yet to release a draft of next year's FAFSA, Cardona said the department won't go through the standard public comment process, which may allow ED to meet the October deadline.

"If the department is truly on track, as it claims," Houchin said, "this bill will formalize its intention and ensure that students receive the support and financial information they need in a timely manner."

Still, some experts are skeptical that ED is on track to meet this date.

Moreover, some say the Oct. 1 deadline isn't as important as making sure the form actually works this year, as technical glitches and other errors plagued the 2024-25 FAFSA.

Jill Desjean, director of policy analysis at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), previously told BestColleges that some financial aid administrators would prefer a fully functioning form at launch, even if that meant delaying the release.

"It's a hard balance to achieve, especially given this year. I understand [ED officials] want to save face and get the FAFSA out on time this year," Desjean said. "But I'm not sure how much they would be saving face if schools don't get all the information they need."

It remains to be seen if the FAFSA Deadline Act can attract bipartisan support, but lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have condemned the rollout of the 2024-25 FAFSA.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce will review the FAFSA Deadline Act during a markup session on July 10.