WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Thom Tillis and his colleagues recently wrote a letter to U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) Comptroller General Gene Dodaro requesting an investigation into the Biden Administration’s failure to properly implement the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) program, delaying students’ and families’ access to crucial financial aid for college.
“Each year, almost 18 million students submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine their eligibility for federal grants, work-study, and loans. These students often depend on the FAFSA to determine if they can afford college and decide how they are going to pay for it,” the senators wrote.
“However, repeated delays from the Department of Education (Education) in rolling out the new FAFSA have left students and schools in limbo for the upcoming school year. Although students have traditionally been able to start submitting a FAFSA each year on October 1st, Education was three months late launching the new application and it was not consistently available on Education’s website until early January (after a “soft launch” on December 30th),” the senators continued.
“The goal of FAFSA simplification was in part to make the whole process easier for students and their families. This is possible only if Education is providing students with clear communications on how to navigate the new application. Similarly, schools need guidance on the new process so they can adjust their own financial aid systems to account for the FAFSA changes. However, initial feedback from students and schools indicates that Education’s current outreach efforts are falling short,” the senators concluded.
The bipartisan FAFSA Simplification Act passed in 2020 with the intention of making financial aid more accessible for all students by streamlining the application process. The legislation required Education to roll out the FAFSA program by January 1st, 2024. Despite having three years to prepare for the FAFSA rollout, Education only made the application available for borrowers for a mere 30 minutes on December 30th before taking it down and then making it live for only one additional hour on December 31st. The application was then only accessible for sporadic periods until it became fully live on Saturday, January 6th, days after the deadline set by Congress. On top of these complications, FAFSA has normally been available for students on October 1st. The delayed timeline, along with Education’s setbacks, forced high school counselors to postpone financial aid information sessions. Counselors are now rushing to connect with students and families to help them navigate through the new FAFSA process. Additionally, these setbacks mean colleges cannot provide students with financial aid offers, giving students less time and less information to compare financial aid packages to
Read the full letter HERE.