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Education Department begins providing financial aid information to colleges after months of delays



why college applicants will have to wait months longer to find out how much financial aid theyre getting this year

The Biden administration announced on Monday that some colleges and universities have begun to receive federal data necessary to assemble financial aid offers for incoming students, following months of delays and technical difficulties.

Before extending to more universities, the Education Department claims to have sent a first batch of student records to a few dozen universities on Sunday and is currently finalizing updates.

The postponement has reduced the amount of time schools typically have to put together financial aid packages prior to the customary May 1 deadline for college acceptance. Families across the country are left wondering how much financial aid they will receive for college tuition because many colleges have extended their enrollment deadlines while they wait on the federal government.

The standard October release of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid was postponed until late December due to the form’s overhaul. After fixing some remaining bugs in the system, the department soft-launched the updated version, but many families encountered issues obtaining the form.

In 2020, the notoriously complicated form was ordered to be updated by Congress in order to make it simpler and provide federal student aid to more low-income students. The 108 questions on the new application have been reduced to less than 50, and the formula for determining eligibility for federal student aid has been updated to be more generous.

There have been ripple effects on higher education from the delays. Schools compile financial aid packages for potential students using the information from the FAFSA, which is also used to award state and federal education grants. When choosing colleges, families frequently have a vague notion of how much they would have to pay in the interim, which can be a deal-breaker.

Proponents worry that some students—especially those who were already undecided—will be discouraged from pursuing higher education altogether as a result of the delay.

The Biden administration has been marred by repeated delays, and it has pointed the finger at Congress for turning down requests for additional funding to modernize the antiquated application process and revamp information systems.

Congressmen who are Republicans claim that the Government Accountability Office has opened a probe into how the administration handled the overhaul.

Approximately 17 million students complete the FAFSA each year as a part of their financial aid applications. According to the department, 5.5 million students have completed the new FAFSA form.

The department increased the amount of aid eligible to students by updating its formula to account for inflation. The updated inflation tool was absent from the initial release, though.

More than a hundred Democratic lawmakers questioned the department in a letter sent in February, demanding to know how it intended to lessen the effect the delays had on families.

“Any delays in financial aid processing will most impact the students that need aid most, including many students of color, students from mixed status families, students from rural backgrounds, students experiencing homelessness or in foster care, first-generation students, and students from underserved communities,” they wrote. “For institutions to support students’ ability to make informed decisions about their future, they need clear guidance and resources from the Department immediately on any and all next steps.”

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