- A dozen education organizations are pressing the U.S. Department of Education to announce a firm release date for the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid, arguing that “every day counts” when supporting students through the process.
- The Education Department announced earlier this year that it would unveil the FAFSA form sometime in December, two months later than its usual Oct. 1 release. The delay is meant to implement changes to make the form simpler, but it also shrinks the window for college officials to make aid offers to applicants.
- The organizations — which include prominent higher education groups like the American Council on Education and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities — argue that the lack of a release date could hinder a smooth rollout of the new form.
Congress passed legislation in 2020 to simplify the FAFSA, which has been notoriously difficult for students and their families to complete. The Education Department confirmed in March that it will debut the streamlined FAFSA in December, but the education groups are pressing the agency to finalize and announce the date they will release the form.
“Stakeholders are hard at work planning for the release, but there is a limit to how much they can do without knowing exactly when the form will become available,” the groups wrote in their letter, which is dated Friday.
College access counselors, for instance, want to finalize plans to support students, including by announcing the dates of FAFSA completion nights, they wrote. A dozen states also require high school students to complete the form to graduate, and must announce plans for how students can meet these requirements. Meanwhile, both states and colleges need to firm up their timelines for considering financial aid applications.
An Education Department spokesperson said Monday the agency received the letter and is “working expeditiously to make an announcement on this as soon as possible.”
Several states — including California, Maryland and Texas — have financial aid deadlines from January to early March. Those states may have to push back those dates so students have more time to complete the FAFSA.
Some colleges are making temporary changes to adapt to the delay. This year, Assumption University, in Massachusetts, will finalize need- and merit-based financial aid awards for applicants as soon as they’re accepted. That means the Roman Catholic institution could lock in those offers as early as October.
In their letter, the education groups said they are not asking the Education Department to release the new FAFSA on an accelerated timeline that compromises the agency work.
But with less than three months until Jan. 1, the latest date by which the Education Department can release the new form, the lack of a firm rollout date “compromises our members’ ability to do all they can to support a smooth rollout,” the organizations wrote.