FAFSA Processing Faces Potential Delays as DOE Corrects Formula Mistake

The FAFSA adjustment addresses inflation oversight, affecting millions of students applying for college annually, resulting in $1.8 billion in additional federal student funding.

FAFSA Processing: College affordability advocates expressed a mixed assessment of the Biden administration’s recent adjustment to the income calculation on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to accommodate inflation. The rectification addressed a significant oversight by the Education Department, which had erroneously calculated family incomes in the latest FAFSA version, impacting millions of students applying for college annually. This correction made an additional $1.8 billion in federal student funding available for American households.

Despite a concerted effort to streamline the application process, this year’s FAFSA release faced substantial delays. Even among staunch supporters of reducing college costs, the news raised concerns about potential disruptions for families and universities nationwide.

Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, emphasized that while adjusting inflationary numbers was necessary, the timing of the updates late in the financial aid processing cycle would lead to additional delays in aid offers and compressed decision-making timelines for students.

The Education Department clarified that the move aligns with the Biden administration’s broader objective of lowering college costs. Johanny Adames, a spokesperson for the administration, highlighted their commitment to making higher education more accessible and ensuring students qualify for maximum financial aid.

Why is there a delay in FAFSA Processing?

The delay in FAFSA’s release stemmed from the Education Department’s efforts to reform the form in compliance with legislation set to take effect in 2020. This modification aimed to reduce the number of questions families must answer and adjust the federal government’s estimation of available funds for college expenses.

The department, compelled by legal obligations, soft-launched the revised form at intervals at the end of December, causing frustration for students attempting to fill it out during the holiday break. The form became available 24/7 starting January 8, with the department justifying the delay by noting improved completion times and increased eligibility for federal Pell Grants.

While there’s widespread acknowledgment of attempts to enhance financial aid accessibility, the delayed implementation has sparked concerns among colleges, students, and parents. Congressional Republicans have requested an audit of the FAFSA launch, finding common ground in questioning the Education Department’s handling of the process.

In contrast, Democratic representatives like Rep. Bobby Scott applauded the decision as positive for students and families, emphasizing the importance of ensuring students receive the aid they deserve. Bryce McKibben, a college affordability advocate involved in shaping the 2020 law simplifying FAFSA, recognized the concerns of universities but stressed the critical nature of providing aid, especially for middle-income individuals.

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