FAFSA changes causing stress on campus
For many on the University of Minnesota campus, student loans are a part of academic life.
“Without FAFSA, a lot of people aren’t able to go to school or afford going to school,” declares Sam Adeniyi, a U of M grad student. “We’re already thinking about student loans and all of that piling up.”
But changes to FAFSA- short for ‘Free Application for Federal Student Aid’- are having a bumpy rollout.
This week, the U.S. Department of Education announced millions of the student loan forms won’t be sent to colleges and universities until mid-March.
“It’s irritating for sure,” says Josie Antwiwaa, a U of M sophomore. “I have a younger sister who’s going to apply soon, as she’s going to college. So, it was just kind of tricky trying to figure out when we should do this, how we should do this, and when is this going to reopen again.”
Right now, the program has two big problems.
A new simplified form, mandated by Congress, meant students couldn’t fully access applications until the first week of the year.
That’s triggering delays on financial aid offers from schools and putting more pressure on students and their families.
“Some of us are waiting for like our parents to help us fill out that information,” Adeniyi says. “We need as much time as possible to make sure we get all the right stuff.”
Last week, the Department of Education confirmed it had failed to update the tables used to calibrate student eligibility based on inflation.
The delays are drawing criticism from Republicans in Congress who are now asking for answers from the Government Accountability Office.
“So, colleges are unable to create financial aid offers because they don’t have the FAFSA data they need from the U.S. Department of Education,” Senator Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) told reporters.
The University of Minnesota acknowledged the delays are causing additional stress and challenges for students.
Robert McMaster, the school’s vice provost and dean of undergraduate education released a statement, which says in part:
“We are committed to helping students and their families through this time and are assessing the May 1 enrollment confirmation deadline for admitted freshmen. We’ll process the FAFSA information as quickly as possible upon receipt from the Department of Education. We do encourage students and families who have not completed their FAFSA form to do so at studentaid.gov.”
A spokesperson for the Minnesota State system says it will process FAFSA information as soon as it is available, but the delay isn’t expected to affect any financial aid awards. Still, for some students, the situation is causing an added burden to their already busy workloads.
“Once you hit like next week, or the week after is when midterms start, papers start,” explains Cailin Schwalbach, a U of M senior. “That can be stressful having private loans, FAFSA loans and remembering on top of everything else you have to remember to do.”