ACE, Groups Urge FSA to Work With the Higher Education Community to Ensure Smooth Transition to New FAFSA
November 20, 2023

​The Education Department (ED) last week announced a timeline for its long-awaited overhaul of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which aims to simplify the application process and broaden access to financial aid. ACE and six other education associations emphasized the importance of a smooth and prompt implementation in a letter to ED's Office of Federal Student Aid on Nov. 17, urging collaboration with stakeholders to address potential issues.

The changes to FAFSA were designed to make aid easier to access and more generous to students. ED estimates that changes to eligibility criteria will result in 610,000 low-income students receiving Pell Grants for the first time, with nearly 1.5 million more students receiving the maximum Pell Grant of $7,395 for the 2023-2024 academic year.

However, the overhaul to the form and process comes with certain administrative challenges.

ED has acknowledged that there will be a delay in processing the FAFSA after the new version goes live in December, likely not until Dec. 31. This is the latest the form could be released by law and is well after the usual date of Oct. 1. Coupled with administrative complexities, this delay is expected to slow down the delivery of college financial aid offers for many students.

Campuses typically receive aid eligibility information soon after a student submits their form. Given the delays in launching the new FAFSA application form, institutions will receive individual applicants’ data by the end of January at the earliest. There also will be a suspension of the direct transmission of FAFSA data to some state financial aid programs for the current school year, impacting students in Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.

In their letter, the groups applaud FSA’s goal of providing targeted support to under-resourced institutions but suggest that more can be done to prevent systemic problems during the launch of the new system. They call for increased information sharing regarding the implementation and timeline of the new FAFSA and associated processing systems to better prepare the higher education community.

The groups also raise concerns about the statutory deadline for the FAFSA application’s availability and emphasize that institutions cannot begin determining student eligibility until they receive applicant information in January. The associations request clear communication from the Department of Education to applicants about the status of their applications and recommend steps students might take to work with their institutions.

For more information about the FAFSA redesign, see the ED website.

Also See

End-of-Year FAFSA Launch Could Cause More Delays, Headaches

Inside Higher Ed | Nov. 16, 2023