The college decline is feared to becatastrophic thanks to the bungled FAFSA

WASHINGTON (AP) — The last thing standing between Ashnaelle Bijoux and her college dream is the FAFSA form — a financial aid application that’s supposed to help students go to college, but is blocking her instead.
The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, went through a massive overhaul that was supposed to make it simpler and shorter.
If not, she might go to a local community college, but even that would require loans if she can’t complete the FAFSA.
But that’s not the case.” The updated FAFSA form has one section filled out by students and another by their parents.
Last week, Richard Cordray, the federal student loan chief who oversaw the FAFSA update, announced he’s stepping down at the end of June.
It’s used to determine eligibility for the federal Pell grant, a scholarship for low-income students, and it’s required to receive federal student loans.
FAFSA had long been maligned for being tedious, difficult and intimidating to families without college experience.
Federal education officials say they’re addressing lingering bugs but making progress.


WASHINGTON (AP) — The last thing standing between Ashnaelle Bijoux and her college dream is the FAFSA form — a financial aid application that’s supposed to help students go to college, but is blocking her instead. She has made multiple attempts to turn it in. It never gets through every time.

Bijoux, 19, expressed, “I feel overburdened and stressed out.”. The last time she attempted the form, she nearly broke down. “I think something is preventing me from moving forward. “.

Spring is usually a time for high school seniors to celebrate, but this year has been tarnished by the government’s disastrous introduction of the new FAFSA application. Students typically know where they will be attending college in the fall by May 1. Most are still waiting on offers of financial aid this year. Many students are still unsure about their college plans and financial arrangements three months ahead of the fall semester.

According to Justin Draeger, president and CEO of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, “we’re asking them to make probably one of the biggest financial decisions—and decisions that will have the biggest implications on their lives going forward—without all of the information.”.

A significant redesign of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, was intended to make it easier to complete and shorter. But it was more difficult than ever due to a string of errors made by the Education Department, which caused college decisions to be delayed by months and stoked concerns that hundreds of thousands of students would completely forego college.

According to the National College Attainment Network, the percentage of students who successfully filed their FAFSA is down 29% nationwide from this time last year, and it’s much worse at institutions that have a higher proportion of low-income students.

Congress was forewarned this month by the group’s CEO, Kim Cook, about a potentially “catastrophic” decline in college enrollment that would make the pandemic’s declines appear minor.

For Bijoux, a resident of Norwich, Connecticut, the promise of a college education is in jeopardy because of the FAFSA issues.

For her, attending college offers the opportunity to take advantage of opportunities that her mother, who immigrated to the United States from Haiti, was not able to enjoy. S. as an adult. In addition to being a role model for her three younger brothers, Bijoux aspires to become a counselor.

She should be qualified for sufficient financial aid to assist with the $13,000 annual tuition at Southern Connecticut State University if her FAFSA is approved. If not, she might attend a nearby community college, but even there, loans would be necessary if she is unable to submit the FAFSA.

Because it feels like you work so hard to go somewhere, accomplish something, and establish yourself, that’s why it hurts, according to Bijoux. “I assumed that I would work hard from the moment I started at a four-year college and continue to do so for the rest of my life. This is untrue, though. “.

Students and their parents must complete separate sections of the updated FAFSA form. However, Bijoux’s mother’s internet account remains empty after she completes her portion. She tries again and again, but nothing appears to shift.

Along with a plethora of other bugs that the Education Department has been rushing to fix, similar issues have been reported nationwide. When families call customer service, they report hanging up on them or having to wait for a long time.

According to Anne Zinn, a counselor at Norwich Free Academy, where Bijoux attends, it “drains all the momentum” from families trying to send their kids to college, especially those making their way through the system for the first time.

“I have to tell them to be patient for a certain amount of time before they give up and say, ‘I’m going to go get a job. Why am I doing this?'” the woman remarked.

Republicans have requested that the rollout be looked into after it drew criticism from both parties in Congress. Richard Cordray, the federal student loan chief who oversaw the FAFSA update, announced last week that he will be leaving his position at the end of June.

The delays are also a serious threat to colleges.

Reduced enrollment such as those predicted now could force many small colleges to close their doors or force them to make significant staff reductions. The CEO of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, Angel Pérez, stated that some colleges are requesting emergency assistance in order to survive.

According to Pérez, “they will not survive if they do not get checks from the federal government to basically get them through next year.”.

For many years, the foundation of student financial aid has been the FAFSA. It is necessary to obtain federal student loans and is used to assess eligibility for the federal Pell grant, a scholarship for low-income students. States and colleges can award their own scholarships through the FAFSA.

Families without college experience had long been accused of finding the FAFSA to be burdensome, challenging, and frightening. Legislation to streamline the form was passed by Congress in 2020. In order to increase aid to more students, the Education Department was mandated to modify the formula and cut the number of questions from over 100 to roughly 40.

When the new form went live in December, months after it was supposed to, issues began to mount.

An antiquated inflation computation was used to process the initial applications in an incorrect manner. Subsequently, on more than 200,000 applications, a federal contractor computed an incorrect formula. Students had to wait longer to hear anything regarding financial aid as a result of each error that caused delays.

More concerning is an error that prevented students with parents who do not have Social Security numbers from completing the application. Supporters claim that hundreds of thousands of American students were shut out of the system. S. whose parents are not citizens or permanent residents.

On Tuesday, the Department of Education announced that it will be providing those parents with an alternative method of manually inputting their tax data. However, a few students reported this week that they were still unable to submit the form.

Although there are still issues to be fixed, federal education officials report that they are making headway. According to the agency, more than 8 million student applications have already been completed and forwarded to colleges, and new applications are being processed every three days.

The wait is still very much ongoing. School preparation for financial aid offers typically takes several weeks. Some universities have extended the time for making decisions so that students have more time to consider their options. Some, however, continued to hold admissions to colleges until May 1st, forcing students to select one without fully understanding their scholarship options and to pay a nonrefundable deposit to secure their spot.

Governing West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice issued a state of emergency on Tuesday, enabling students to obtain state scholarships without waiting for the federal government to process their FAFSA. West Virginia has the lowest percentage of college graduates in the country, and according to Republican Justice, the state’s high school FAFSA completion rates are currently down almost 40%.

It’s true that many young people are merely observing. ‘Am I going to be able to go to college?'” he remarked at a press conference.

Camryn Carter is waiting in Baltimore to hear whether he will be eligible for full scholarship to the University of Maryland or if he will have to pay back tens of thousands of dollars in student loans.

Carter, who excels academically and leads both his baseball and wrestling teams, views college as a next step in his life. He recalls the moments in the grocery store queue when he had to return things to their shelves because his mother was unable to pay the bill. The 18-year-old claimed that a college degree would provide him with the stability he had not always had.

However, he finds tuition to be intimidating. He’s thinking about attending the private McDaniel College in Maryland in addition to Maryland. He anticipates borrowing nearly $30,000 annually if he enrolls there.

He declared, “I try to make the best choices now so I can have a good future.”. “I have a slight fear that things won’t turn out well. Nonetheless, I’m dependable. “.


Reporting from Charleston, West Virginia, was contributed by Leah Willingham.

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