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FAFSA Delays Raise Concerns About Student Enrollment


An overhaul of this year’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form has resulted in delays in processing financial awards at colleges across the country, raising concerns that the delays could deter some students from enrolling.

In Texas, where 43.5% of college students are the first in their families to attend college, FAFSA delays may be especially impactful. Parents without a social security number have been unable to fill out the new FAFSA forms. The U.S. Department of Education has acknowledged the glitch, but it is not clear when a permanent solution will be provided.

The new FAFSA application was soft launched in December with the goal of streamlining the FAFSA process and providing greater financial aid eligibility for lower-income students. 

“Not having the application available in October has put all schools behind,” says Shannon Venezia, Senior Associate Vice Chancellor Financial Aid for Lone Star College, which serves over 80,000 students at seven campuses in the Houston metro area. “Schools will not begin to receive FAFSAs until mid-March. This delays award notifications to students when they most need it to make informed decisions about paying for college.”

At Alvin Community College, south of Houston, financial aid applications won’t be processed until late May or early June, says Gaby Leon, Director of Financial Aid for the college. The school, which normally approves applications in April, provides financial aid to roughly 50% of eligible students, which results in about 2,000 financial aid awards per year.

Recent changes from the U.S. Department of Education, including a reduction in verification requirements, offer some relief, says Leon, but the school still anticipates significant delays.

“They are going to reduce the number of verifications, but it’s going to take us a lot longer because we still have to test our system,” says Leon. “Because the form is new, we have to see if all the updates are correct and make sure it actually calculates the right amount the student is supposed to be receiving before we can start sending out award notifications. “

Communicating with students regarding the delays has been a priority at Alvin Community College. The school has been hosting college nights and FAFSA workshops for students and parents to help communicate expected timelines.

“We want to make sure students aware that even though there is a lot to do, we will get their financial aid awarded,” says Leon. ”As long as we receive their FAFSA application, they’ll be able to start in the fall semester.”

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Leslie Trahan
Content Strategy Manager

Leslie Trahan is the content strategy manager for TASB.