Welcome back to the blog! We provide college planning assistance for students and families here in Western New York, and right now we’re in the middle of FAFSA season. FAFSA season used to begin in October, but as of this year we are officially in the first year of the “simplified” FAFSA era. Today we’re highlighting a recent development that has demonstrated that things may not be so simple in the coming months for families seeking to gain access to their financial aid. Let’s take a look at what many experts are observing could occur next.
Some Good News for FAFSA
To start things off, a recent press release from the U.S. Department of Education notes that despite many experts’ fears, the Department has “updated the supporting tables used in the Student Aid Index (SAI) calculation– which replaced the Expected Family Contribution formula– that account for inflation.” Many experts were clamoring for this apparent misstep of the new FAFSA, which previously failed to account for inflation. Without factoring in inflation over the last few years, parents’ income would have appeared to be greater than it really is, causing students to potentially receive less aid. The press release demonstrates that this fix “allocates an additional $1.8 billion in aid to ensure that all students can access the maximum financial aid they are eligible for.”
Financial Aid Letters Delayed Until Mid-March
The last update from the DOE claimed that colleges would receive students’ FAFSA data by the end of January. Welp. That didn’t happen. This result demonstrates that financial aid award letters and possibly some admission letters will be delayed. It wasn’t until this new press release on January 30th that schools would be notified by the DOE that they shouldn’t expect to receive the data until March, at the earliest. When the process for FAFSA was created to be simplified, colleges were expected to get test data from the DOE. FAFSA data sent to the schools is what is known as “Institutional Student Information Record,” or ISIR. These are the vital records used by both sides of the financial aid system. Schools will also need to test their systems for delivery as they are the ones who send the letters out to students and families. The schools won’t necessarily be able to test their systems without having the ISIR data.
What Will FAFSA Delays mean for Students & Parents?
Colleges who were expecting to receive the ISIR data in January will now need to scramble to update prospective students with a new timeline for their award letters and admission timelines. Each school will send their own personal correspondence, so be sure to read each one individually with specificity. Because we are anticipating the schools to reach out to families regarding the delays, we recommend a few things to avoid any issues.
Confirm submitted data is correct once it’s processed. You can access your info via the FAFSA Summary Report on the FAFSA site
Verify that school FAFSA codes are correct.
Understand ahead of time, how each school you’re applying for handles their appeal process, and have your appeal letter prepared as soon as possible. (we can help!)
Prepare your information for CSS Profile and NYS TAP. State award programs
When In Doubt, Remember You’re Not Alone for FAFSA in WNY
We hope this is helpful and informative for your college planning journey. We are always here to help parents and their kids with preparing and planning for college. If you have any questions or want assistance with completing all your college financial aid forms, we can take all the work off your hands. Let us know via phone or by our contact form what you need, and we will reach out! Remember to follow us on Facebook and Linkedin for more college planning tips & updates!