The U.S. Department of Education launched the updated Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in December 2023 with changes that were designed to make financial aid more accessible to those in need and to simplify the overall application process. Unfortunately, the FAFSA rollout has presented a multitude of technical and procedural challenges for current and prospective college students and their families.

The FAFSA Issues Students are Facing

ISTS has been monitoring industry news and updates from the Department of Education to understand the issues students are facing – in filing their FAFSA and in receiving Submission Summaries – as well as assessing the impact on programs we administer. These issues are:

  • Delayed timeframe for Institutional Student Information Records (ISIR) to college/university offices; currently expected by mid-March at the earliest.
  • Without the FAFSA ISIR information, colleges are unable to calculate student financial aid packages, impacting students’ ability to make informed decisions on where they can pursue post-secondary education.
  • College admissions offices are expected to push decision deadlines until June/July (according to some industry analysts); however; nothing has been confirmed at this point.

Mitigating the Impact of FAFSA Issues

While we continue to navigate the changing landscape, we have identified the following initial list of proactive solutions to help program sponsors who rely on FAFSA information for award calculations to mitigate the impact of the FAFSA issues and support students:

  • Extend your application deadline(s) until the primary FAFSA challenges are resolved; minimally, through mid-late April.
  • Allow students to submit 2022 1040 tax forms in lieu of FAFSA Submission Summaries (current cycle only); since FAFSA uses prior-prior year to determine the Student Aid Index calculation, this would provide substantially similar data.
  • Permit students to submit Student Aid Index estimates using the Federal Student Aid Estimator tool in lieu of FAFSA Submission Summaries, as recommended by the National Scholarship Providers Association.
  • Remove financial need requirements if they are not a determining factor in offering the applicant an award.
  • Move financial requirements from the application process to later in the cycle (e.g., as a condition of award acceptance) to allow students more time to obtain their FAFSA information.

Related Reading

  • Stay abreast of the FAFSA news with National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators’ FAFSA Simplification Web Center
  • Check out NPR’s latest education-related content like this article that addresses the delay in college financial aid offers and this audio segment about what the FAFSA delays mean for students.


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