FAFSA delays aggravate financial aid woes for students

Students have applied to colleges already, but still need one more form before deciding. Photo by: Jake Brosnahan

OSWEGO, N.Y. — Delays in the FAFSA application process are worsening financial aid challenges for students nationwide, hindering timely access to crucial funds for pursuing higher education.

As the deadline looms, frustrated students and families are being made to deal with obstacles in completing the FAFSA application, highlighting issues plaguing the accessibility of higher education financing.

As the average cost for a college education continues to skyrocket nationwide, the Free Application For Student Federal Aid (FAFSA) has seen plummeting numbers in applications.

Application numbers have dropped 40% since the rollout of the new form in December 2023, three months late from it’s usual release around October.

“The FAFSA delay, I think, is affecting students’ decisions at Oswego,” said Jennie Hoffman, associate director of financial aid at SUNY Oswego.

The delay and confusing rollout of the new FAFSA applications have made it harder for not only future students but current students to apply for aid for the next academic year.

Typically colleges are able to offer students aid by the end of March, but many high school seniors and current college students are yet to receive offers or send in their aid applications.

“We’ve still seen students that are, you know, confident that Oswego is their first-choice school. And so they’re submitting their deposits, but they won’t be able to know really what that net cost will be or what the gap will be between their financial aid package and their cost of attendance until they get that data from our office,” Hoffman said.

The root causes of the delays remain unclear, with some attributing the issues to staffing shortages at the Department of Education and others pointing to ongoing technical glitches on the FAFSA application page on their website. Regardless of the underlying reasons, the consequences are stark: students are left in a state of uncertainty, unsure of whether they will receive the financial assistance they desperately need.

As the deadline for FAFSA submissions draws nearer, pressure mounts for students and families navigating this situation. With the cost of higher education continuing to rise, the need for timely and efficient financial aid processes is critical.

In response to growing concerns, policymakers are calling for urgent action to address the root causes of the FAFSA delays and ensure that all students have equitable access to financial aid. However, for the students caught in the midst of this bureaucratic nightmare, the path forward remains uncertain.

Amid these issues SUNY Oswego, along with many other SUNY schools, announced that they are extending their decision deadline recognizing the importance of providing future students with time to assess their options.

— Reporter Melina Morales contributed to this story.