Thursday, February 29, 2024

FAFSA recipients must wait until April for financial aid following delay

February 3, 2024
The computer lab in the Communication Arts and Sciences building on Sept. 7, 2021.
The computer lab in the Communication Arts and Sciences building on Sept. 7, 2021. —
Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

The U.S. Department of Education announced that Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FASFA, packages will be delayed until April.  The delay is to fix a $1.8 billion mistake that could potentially have harmed low-income students' packages

The department's mathematic formula incorrectly overestimated the annual income of low-income students' households, meaning they would earn less than what they need in financial aid as a result of this error. 

Now, the department won’t send students’ FAFSA data to their universities until early-to-late March, two months later than their previous date of late January.

In 2023, 61.6% of MSU’s undergraduate students completed FAFSA, according to the MSU's State Transparency Report

Biochemistry junior Zane Watkins applied for the 2023-2024 year in late August. He said that he applies for FASFA every school year and has experienced issues with it in the past. 

“I can see it being a problem if students can’t pay tuition in time,” Watkins said. “I’ve had problems with FAFSA before … where I was going to have to pay a full subsidized loan for tuition. I don’t know why that happened.”

Watkins said that the U.S. Department of Education could make applying for FAFSA “more straightforward and simple," and could "make it so you don't have to jump through so many hoops to get financial aid." 

Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Education redesigned and simplified FAFSA applications for the 2024-2025 school year to require  less questions in order to ease the process for students without parental help.

Psychology sophomore Meixi Yang said she has helped a friend apply for student aid, as the friend had found difficulty navigating the application forms

Yang believes MSU could help students understand how to apply for different financial aid by making "a handbook for students." 

“The website is complicated. There’s lots of different financial aid, and MSU could categorize them and explain the difference,” Yang said

Finance sophomore Tailyr Powe applied for FAFSA in Dec. 2022, as soon as the U.S. Department of Education had opened applications for the 2023-2024 school year.

However, the department had opened applications two months later than usual – as they also did again this school yearwhich Powe said marked the beginning of her problems with FAFSA. 

“I’m planning to live off-campus next year, and I’m trying to prepare in advance, but I really can’t when I don’t know how my finances will be,” Powe said. “They have to take into consideration that a lot of the students need the money ... there’s nothing we can do but deal with it.”

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