FAFSA setback delays financial aid awards for CPP students

By Alejandro Barlow, March 12, 2024

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid has suffered a setback which means students will have to wait even longer to be awarded financial aid. The setback affects the California Dream Act Application and said financial aid offers will not arrive until April.

FAFSA recipients usually receive their packages by October of every year, but it was delayed until December of 2023. An oversight of inflation balance of over 1 billion dollars which furthered a second delay, so FAFSA did not send the data to colleges, further delaying financial aid packages until late March to early April. The CDAA is based on the FAFSA and will be delayed until a few weeks after the FAFSA is fully released.

Both public and private universities are affected by the FAFSA delay. Not just colleges in California are pushing back the deadline of acceptance until May 15. Virginia Tech put out a notice that its acceptance day is pushed back to May 15 and more are joining in, according to Cal Poly Pomona Director of Admissions, Traci Lew.

For incoming students, the acceptance date deadline was May 1, according to Jessica Michelle Wagoner, the senior associate vice president of enrollment management and services. She said the changes were supposed to simplify the process for students with additional features and added security, but there was an inflation oversight and technical issues that pushed the release date of the form even further and delayed the financial aid packages until mid-March.

Due to the delay, the Financial Aid office cannot see any information until FAFSA releases it to colleges, leaving Financial Aid blind to any student’s information. According to Wagoner, the earliest CPP can start administering financial aid packaging is mid-April with the acceptance deadline May 1, leaving students little time to review financial aid offers from any campus until just before the deadline.

The National Association for College Administration Counseling released a statement saying many institutions extended its enrollment, scholarship and financial aid deadlines past May 1 during the pandemic. NACAC has a list of 10, and counting, associations including American Association of Community Colleges and American Council on Education that have agreed to extend the enrollment deadline once again to accommodate the FAFSA delays.

According to CPP’s Executive Director of Financial Aid Jeanette Phillips, if a student receives any financial aid offer, the deadline for tuition payment is after the Add/Drop period. The fee assessment does not happen until after July.

“So the current year it’s pretty much taken care of,” said Phillips. “For those students who have applied later, we’re still processing the current year, so that’s the 23-24 aid year. It has no impact on the 24-25 cycle.”

One of the changes students will see on the FAFSA is this new term, “Contributor.” Phillips explained that a parent of the student will log in with their own FSAID after being invited to the form as a contributor by the student to fill out their own section of the form. This includes providing IRS information or permission for tax information to be looked up. Once the contributor finishes the form section, it is considered complete after both parties have filled it out. In previous years the student would normally be able to complete the form for their parents without the need to share.

“This is the biggest change to the FAFSA in 40 years,” said Wagoner.

The application is changing to now require anyone inputting information into the FAFSA to have their own FSA ID to log in and input directly. In addition, FAFSA changed the Estimated Family Contribution to now be a Student Aid Index, giving a more accurate and wider range of contribution.

Phillips is on committees with the California State University system to ensure the CSU can accommodate the changes with the software in place once the FAFSA files are released and imported. According to Phillips, she is helping the committees make the software available to the CSU campuses.

Philips says her team is working to the best of their abilities with financial aid packages and sending updates of financial aid to students through email and answering any questions students may have. Philips also reminds prospective students to check the emails on their admissions applications for updates on financial aid.

Lew said the CSU and University of California systems decided to move the national commitment deadline to no earlier than May 15. Lew said CPP made the decision of the extended May 15 deadline on Feb. 1, one week prior to the statement from the UC and CSU systems.

“By and large, the decision was made to be student centered and give students adequate time to make a decision on where they’re going to spend the next four or five years of their life,” said Lew. “It’s not a decision that students or families take lightly.”

CPP is offering Financial Aid workshops in person Saturdays starting Feb. 24 and online daily to assist and inform applicants with financial aid questions or help them fill out the forms or create an FSAID.

Feature image courtesy of Lesly Velasco. 

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