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Ascent Blog

An Update on FAFSA Delays: What Parents and Students Need to Know 

There have been countless adjustments to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process this past year, and the changes keep coming. 

A revamped FAFSA application process was introduced for the 2024-2025 academic year, with changes that aim to provide a smoother submission experience for students and families. One of the most pivotal changes was the shift from Expected Family Contribution (EFC) to the Student Aid Index (SAI) as the metric to help determine a family’s eligibility for federal student aid.  

Previously, many families completing the FAFSA thought the EFC was the amount they’d be expected to contribute to college costs. In reality, the EFC reflected the amount of aid families were eligible for. The “rebranding” of this metric as the Student Aid Index (SAI) was intended to reduce confusion, but that is apparently not what is happening in practice. 

FAFSA delays – What’s going on? 

​​​Problems in the FAFSA process are certainly coming to a boil, with some local governments even declaring a state of emergency over the issue.  

Recent data from the National College Attainment Network revealed the number of successful submissions among high school seniors has dropped nearly 30% from 2023. This drop is even more pronounced for low-income and minority families, which could exacerbate disparities in college attendance for the upcoming fall semester if more financially vulnerable families opt out of registration due to a lack of reliable funding. 

Technical glitches are behind some of the recent issues. Some returning FAFSA applicants have reportedly lost access to their submission data from the previous year. This means students looking to make minor adjustments to their existing FAFSA can no longer do so. Others have reported blank fields or incorrect codes on their processed forms.  

There may also be instances of the application platform importing incorrect or partial tax data, which can result in mismatched information. For example, applicants and contributors without a Social Security number may encounter an error message if the information they enter on the invitation doesn’t match what’s listed on their StudentAid.gov account. Additionally, a technical glitch reportedly prevented undocumented parents of U.S. citizen students from completing their portion of the FAFSA for months, with no known workaround. 

There has been a significant effort to find solutions to these types of FAFSA, according to fsapartners.ed.gov

What does this mean for students? 

For many students and their families, problems with the FAFSA are only adding to the existing pressures of the college application season. And the impact is alarming. Even College Decision Day, which typically falls on May 1, has been delayed by hundreds of schools that have yet to receive the FAFSA data needed to inform financial aid letters. 

This situation has created a sense of unease for parents reluctant to send their children off to college without knowing the full scope of their family’s financial commitment. In turn, students may hesitate to choose a school if they have not received their financial aid results. And they could be forced into a quick decision to meet college application deadlines.  

While some students await technical assistance for FAFSA glitches, non-U.S. Citizens looking for aid continue to await crucial answers about Social Security numbers and Federal Student Aid (FSA) IDs. 

Where can students and families go for guidance? 

The FAFSA situation is fluid and continues to evolve daily. One of the best things parents and students can do now is stay in the loop on all things FAFSA as the bugs are resolved.  

Monitoring updates via StudentAid.gov and utilizing their FAFSA Help Center can help students and families stay up to date. The Knowledge Center on the Federal Student Aid website is another helpful resource for real-time updates on the 2024-2025 FAFSA.  

What you can do while you wait: 

If you are awaiting IT assistance to complete the FAFSA, be proactive and ensure you have all your personal information and documentation ready.  

Who you can reach out to in the meantime: 

For updates tailored to your preferred colleges and your financial aid eligibility, you may want to reach out to the schools’ financial aid offices directly. Financial aid advisors may have advice on next steps specific to their college or university. They can also advise on additional funding options to explore while you await your FAFSA outcome. 

As you reach out to schools, it’s a good idea to confirm their specific application deadlines and whether your school of interest has implemented a grace period to accommodate those impacted by the FAFSA delays. 

Explore alternative funding 

Financial aid can be a lifeline for many students, providing the necessary resources to pursue their career dreams. While the FAFSA issues are worked out, students can explore other ways to pay for college, including scholarships, grants, private student loans, and work-study programs.  

Each type of financial aid serves a unique purpose and has its own set of eligibility criteria and repayment terms, so be sure to do your research to understand which is best for your unique financial circumstances. For example, scholarships and grants are types of financing that do not need to be repaid, whereas federal and private student loans must be repaid with interest. Work-study programs, on the other hand, provide students with part-time employment to help pay for their education expenses while building valuable career experience. 

The Ultimate Guide to Paying for College offers expert tips and best practices for paying for college, including:  

  • Choosing a school that aligns with your budget 
  • Understanding tuition bills so you can manage them effectively 
  • Getting the most out of your financial aid 
  • Taking the stress out of student loans 
  • Borrowing responsibly 

This interactive guide gives parents, guardians, students, and cosigners the confidence to navigate college financing.  

Ascent is here to help! 

Ascent is committed to providing students and their families with the knowledge and resources to succeed this FAFSA season, no matter the obstacles. While you wait to hear back about your financial aid, consider the alternative routes you can take to pay for school. At Ascent, we’ve given out up to $80,000 in scholarships annually to students in need. Browse Ascent’s scholarship opportunities, including our monthly no-essay scholarship opportunities here

Check out our FAFSA resources to ensure the best chance of getting the funding you need for school. On the Ascent Blog, we lay out everything from the very basics of the FAFSA process to choosing the right school. And our Ultimate Guide to Paying for College can help deepen your understanding of the tuition process. We designed this quick and interactive program because Ascent cares about the ability of all students to receive aid and attend their dream school.  

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