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How to Mitigate FAFSA Delays

May 28, 2024

Piggy bank with graduation cap and diploma.

The Summer of Uncertainty: How to Mitigate FAFSA Delays 

Federal aid for higher education, a staple in the pursuit to make college admissions more affordable across the United States, has incurred significant delays. The delays are due to the FAFSA Simplification Act, passed in 2022. The act called for changes to the process and methodologies for determining federal student aid eligibility via the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The delay has caused a ripple effect felt by students, families, and colleges across the country.  

In this time of financial uncertainty, there may be ways for you to mitigate these risks. In this post, we’ll discuss FAFSA, how the delays may be affecting your family, and what you can do to mitigate FAFSA delays.

This blog will cover:

What is FAFSA?

What’s Up With The FAFSA Delays?

What Is The Impact?

What Can You Do To Mitigate FAFSA Delays?

Conclusion

What is FAFSA? 

The FAFSA, is a form completed by current and prospective college students. Nearly 85% of undergraduate students relied on some financial aid in the 2021-2022 academic year, making the FAFSA critical in the process of receiving federal money. The information on the FAFSA helps to determine federal aid eligibility for federal grants, scholarships, and work-study programs. Many states and colleges also use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for their financial aid programs. The FAFSA helps students understand how much federal aid they will receive from the schools they are interested in attending, thus helping to select a school.  

This aid can come in a few forms: 

  • Grants: Money and tuition awarded based on financial need that does not have to be repaid. 
  • Scholarships: These are awarded based on merit, such as academic achievement or community service. Scholarships do not have to be repaid. 
  • Work-Study: A program that allows students to earn money to help pay for college expenses through part-time jobs on campus. Work-study helps to reduce the overall funding burden. 

What’s Up With The FAFSA Delays? 

Many families, students, institutions, and other parties have come to rely on FAFSA  to determine their funding needs and to start deciding on higher education. Although it is normally available on October 1st of   each financial year, processing issues pushed the timeline back to late December 2023. This timeline was pushed further to January 2024 due to glitches and other technical mishaps with the portal.  

FAFSA delays were due to the roll out of the simplified FAFSA form. The simplified form’s goal was to reduce the number of questions the average student would need to answer. It was estimated the new simplified form could save about 10 minutes as compared to previous forms. Unfortunately, there were several issues with the new forms many varied factors, but here are the most notable ones: 

  • Changes to Methodology and Improper Calculations: The new form failed to properly calculate inflation when determining students’ financial needs. 
  • System Upgrades: The department is significantly upgrading the FAFSA processing system to improve efficiency and security. While this is intended to be a positive long-term goal, it has caused short-term disruptions in processing times. 

What Is the Impact? 

The delay has had many effects for first-time college students. Graduating high school seniors are filling out the FAFSA for the first time and often rely on the aid of a high school counselor to guide them in the process. The counselors will have less time than in years past to assist families in the college selection process. It is estimated that only 37% of students have filled out the FAFSA in 2024 compared to last year’s 50% by this point in the year.  

Schools typically use data from the FAFSA to build financial aid packages for students. The delay not only means that students are unsure of their financial options, but it also puts educational institutions in a tough spot. Financial aid administrators anxiously await Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR) sent by the Department of Education (DOE). The ISIRs are sent by the DOE to the schools the students have listed and help determine eligibility for aid.  

Many schools traditionally have a May 1st deadline for students to accept their admissions offers. However, due to FAFSA delays, some schools have pushed back this deadline to give students more time to finalize their financial aid plans. 

Schools may have to stretch their financial aid resources further if they cannot finalize award packages until later in the summer. This could mean fewer merit-based scholarships or a reduction in need-based aid. 

What Can You Do to Mitigate FAFSA Delays? 

While the FAFSA delays are frustrating. There are still steps students and families can take to mitigate FAFSA delays: 

  • Submit the FAFSA ASAP: Even with the delays, submitting the FAFSA as soon as possible is crucial. This ensures that you are considered for all types of financial aid, including federal grants and work-study programs.  
  • Contact your financial aid office: If you have questions or concerns about your financial assistance package, contact your school’s financial aid office. They can provide guidance and updates on the processing timeline. 
  • Explore alternative funding options: While you wait for your FAFSA information, private organizations and local foundations offer research scholarships and grants. You can also look into reducing the financial burden by saving on costs 
  • Consider a private student loan*: Consider applying for a private student loan in the amount you think you need. The loan will be sent to your school’s financial aid office and will only be certified for the amount needed. If more is needed, the correct amount will be noted back in what is sent to the loan company.  You will have a chance to review your final loan documents before signing. 

Conclusion: 

The FAFSA delays are a cause for concern, but there are ways to overcome the uncertainty. Students and families can remain confident about a smooth path toward a successful academic year by staying informed, taking proactive steps, and exploring alternative funding options. 

* Private student loans should be used as supplemental funding after exhausting all sources of financial aid, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans. Federal loans offer more attractive terms when compared to most other borrowing options, including private student loans. For more information on federal loans, visit studentaid.gov.  


Please note that the information provided on this website is provided on a general basis and may not apply to your own specific individual needs, goals, financial position, experience, etc. LendKey does not guarantee that the information provided on any third-party website that LendKey offers a hyperlink to is up-to-date and accurate at the time you access it, and LendKey does not guarantee that information provided on such external websites (and this website) is best-suited for your particular circumstances. Therefore, you may want to consult with an expert (financial adviser, school financial aid office, etc.) before making financial decisions that may be discussed on this website.