Bipartisan group of lawmakers raise concerns about FAFSA delays

(The Center Square) – A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the U.S. House and the Senate is raising concerns about federally-funded student aid, saying ongoing issues and delays have been unaddressed.

The lawmakers expressed concern that the U.S. Department of Education is months behind in its FAFSA process, meaning the application form may not be ready for students in October as it has been in years past.

Last year, the form was delayed and not available for students until New Year’s Eve.

Lawmakers of both parties on the relevant committees joined together saying something needs to be done.

“We are joining together as a bipartisan group of authorizing and appropriations committee leadership to express our concerns with the number of errors and delays in the implementation of the new FAFSA,” the letter said. “We urge the Department to take steps to ensure these problems do not occur again for the 2025-2026 school year. The rocky implementation of the new FAFSA caused a financial aid traffic jam with weighty implications for students…

“These barriers pose added challenges to students and families entering higher education this year and make it less likely that current students will continue in their college journey this year and in the years ahead,” the letter added.

Lawmakers said federal staffers have not been ready to discuss the issue. As a bad sign of the delays, the agency is again already behind on the next year of FAFSA funds.

“This year’s FAFSA was not ready for the expected October 1 application opening, and the public was not given clear information about when the FAFSA would be released, which ultimately was not until December 31st,” the letter said. “There are signs that the next cycle will face similar issues. The Department typically publishes the draft FAFSA for the next award year in February or March for comment. This has not yet happened.”

About 18 million students benefit from FAFSA every year. To prevent future delays for students, the lawmakers made some practical requests.

From the letter:

In the interest of ensuring a smooth FAFSA rollout for students and families next cycle, we insist on full transparency from you and your staff. We request that you provide weekly updates on the timeline, consumer testing, and bug fixes on the 2025-2026 FAFSA to our staff beginning the first week in June. We also request the Department provide a list of any current errors or issues with the form that require resolution before next FAFSA cycle to us by July 8, 2024 and the planned timeline for resolution of those issues. Further, we request that a beta version of the online form be made available to us by no later than September 9, 2024, with a timeline for testing the online form with real students and financial aid administrators and bringing the application live.

By Casey Harper | The Center Square

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