FAFSA fallout resolved but immigrant families still face delays

FAFSA fallout resolved but immigrant families still face delays

FAFSA fallout resolved but immigrant families still face delays

State officials announced a 16% drop in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form in Minnesota. Nationally, FAFSA completion dropped 24.3% due to system complications. 

It’s been a looming concern for months as Macalester College student Anahi Sanchez waited for the FAFSA fallout to resolve. 

“My tuition alone at Macalester for the next academic year is at $84,000. I don’t have have that,” Sanchez said. “I was very concerned. I made sure not to tell my parents because I didn’t want to make them worried.” 

Financial aid offers were plagued by a series of errors and missteps, causing delays for students and schools. It forced students to choose a college, making a nonrefundable payment to hold their spot without knowing all of their scholarship options. But state officials say those problems are now fixed.

“The key message here is there’s still time to apply for financial aid,” said Dennis Olson Jr., commissioner of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. 

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Officials are pushing students to apply for financial aid again, this time with more help thanks to two grants totaling $30,000. The money will go toward two nonprofits, Achieve Twin Cities and College Possible MN, to ramp up resources such as one-on-ones, hotlines and webinars to help students complete their student aid forms. 

“School counselors will be going on break here soon, and this issue will not be resolved in the next few weeks. So we’re going to need to be staffing increasingly over the summer,” explained Isaiah Allen, senior director of external relations with College Possible MN. 

Students who had a bumpy start now touted the new and simpler FAFSA application.

“Honestly, it took me 15 minutes to complete my FAFSA. Fifteen minutes saved me $15,000,” one student said.

That’s not the case for Sanchez, who says it’s different for students from immigrant families. It took her almost three weeks to get her parents verified. 

“My parents had to call and get the verification from them. The phone call would just not go through. Emailing them, it was also really hard because it would take like a week to answer,” she explained.

Despite the challenges, Sanchez says she won’t let it get in the way of her college dreams. 

“I’m very optimistic, so I was like, ‘It’ll be OK,'” she said.

While there’s been a drop in financial aid application completion, the Minnesota State system, which represents over 30 colleges and universities, says it has seen a 20% jump in applications.