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FAFSA applications are rife with issues this year, delaying college decisions for millions of students


Washington
CNN

The college admissions process is usually stressful, but problems with a new FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form have made this year even more chaotic.

A botched rollout of the new application — which must be submitted if a student wants to qualify for certain loans, grants and scholarships — has led to significant delays in getting correct applicant information to schools.

As a result, most students still don’t know how much college will cost them next year, making it extremely difficult for high school seniors to decide where and whether to enroll next year before the usual May 1 deadline. .

Usually, colleges are able to offer students financial aid before the end of March.

But as of this week, “most high school students have not yet received an offer of aid,” Kim Cook, CEO of the National College Attainment Network, told lawmakers Wednesday during a hearing on problems with the FAFSA This year.

The FASFA form was overdue for an update. The redesign, mandated by Congress, made the application form easier to fill out and, if it works as intended, more students will be eligible for increased financial aid.

But the form itself wasn’t made available to students and families until January, about three months later than usual. And a number of problems cause even more headaches. Some experts worry that these issues will prevent some low-income students from enrolling in college this fall.

Here are the stories of three students and how FAFSA issues are delaying their college decisions:

Pay the deposit and “rely on faith”

Courtesy of Lisa Y. Wilson

Chase Cunningham wants to attend Morehouse College this fall, but he still doesn’t know how much it will cost.

Chase Cunningham, 17, will graduate from high school in mid-May — but he may not know where he’ll go to college until then.

Cunningham paid the nonrefundable deposit for Morehouse College, a historically black and all-male school in Atlanta, because it was his first choice.

“Honestly, the prestige and respect that comes from being a ‘Morehouse Man’ is really important to me,” he said, referring to a common name for Morehouse graduates.

Cunningham was accepted to five schools but did not receive any financial aid letters. And Morehouse, a private school, could end up being the most expensive, depending on what kind of scholarships and grants it receives. Many of its other options are state and public schools.

“Even though we paid the deposit to Morehouse, it’s still a little uncertain. If this ends up costing a lot of money, where should I go from there? ” he said.

Cunningham’s mother, Lisa Wilson, said she wishes she could prepare to celebrate her son’s high school graduation rather than worry about the cost of college next year.

The Class of 2024, she noted, has already lost the normal high school experience after entering during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We just have no idea what the cost will be. We’re at a point where we’re relying on faith alone,” Wilson said.

Herberg Photography by Justine

Ellie Norvitch has already chosen a roommate and enrolled in a freshman orientation program, but is still waiting for her financial aid award letter.

Ellie Norvitch, 18, has a head start when it comes to getting into college.

She applied early, last August, and had most of her acceptance letters in hand by the end of last year.

In December, she paid a refundable deposit to her first choice. Norvitch said the College of St. Scholastica, a private college in Minnesota, is the right size for her and is not too far — nor too close — from home. She’s already picked out a roommate and signed up for freshman orientation.

Norvitch thinks St. Scholastica College will also be her most affordable option, but she’s not sure. She did not receive financial aid letters from the six colleges she applied to.

Norvitch said she successfully applied for two scholarships offered by St. Scholastica, but the school has not yet been able to say how much they will be worth due to FAFSA delays. Rewards could range between $500 and $14,000.

“I’m tentatively committed to this school, but if they don’t give me as much money as I think they will, I may have to reconsider,” Norvitch said.

Meanwhile, the deadline to pay a deposit at his second choice school is coming later in April. Some of his other options have pushed the deadline to later this spring.

Norvitch wants to avoid taking out loans to pay for her undergraduate education because she plans to go to law school and will likely have to take out student debt to pursue a law degree.

Her mother, Kelsey Norvitch, is also stressed by the situation.

“It’s almost like there’s a dark cloud hanging over our heads as we wait for this, during what should be a really exciting time,” she said.

Chayne Nelson

Due to issues with the FAFSA, Taylor Smith cannot update her application until the week of April 15.

Taylor Smith, 24, submitted her FAFSA in January. But due to issues with the new application process, the Department of Education is not allowing any updates or changes to forms submitted until the week of April 15.

This means that the two colleges Smith recently applied to will not receive her financial aid information until the end of April because she cannot access the FAFSA to add them to your list.

For Smith, a community college student, it seems like both of those options have essentially been eliminated because she doesn’t know if she’ll know the cost before she has to decide where to enroll.

“I’m kind of creating a plan without a FAFSA, but knowing more information would be a game changer,” Smith said.

She’s not the only one eagerly waiting to change her FAFSA form. Up to 16% of submitted FAFSA applications required correction as of April 9. according to the Ministry of Education.

As a transfer student, some of the college decision deadlines are later for Smith than for a high school student. So she has a little more time to make a decision.

Fortunately, California recently extended the deadline for state scholarships and grants by one month to May 2, easing Smith’s stress.

Additionally, one of his school options, Loyola Marymount University, sent him its own financial aid application last week. She hopes this will help the school generate an aid package more quickly.

For now, Smith is budgeting for her college education and hoping she won’t receive grants or scholarships. There are two public schools: the University of California, Los Angeles and California State University, Northridge – which she could afford with the $12,000 in federal student loans for which she is eligible.

“I qualify for enough loans that I only have to pay a few thousand dollars out of pocket. It would be nice, but it would suck,” she said.

News Source : amp.cnn.com
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