Groups Ask Higher Ed to Postpone Enrollment Deadlines Due to FAFSA Delays

The expected delays in the financial aid packages is the latest setback for the new FAFSA, dubbed the “Better” FAFSA.

A campus map at El Paso Community College’s Valle Verde campus. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

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Several national organizations tied to higher education have asked colleges and universities to delay their usual May enrollment deadlines to accommodate students who will not begin to receive their financial aid packages until March as a result of FAFSA delays.

The nine organizations, which include the National College Attainment Network and the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, or NASFAA, sent their request Wednesday to give students and their families more time to consider financial aid offers and decide where – or if – to attend college.

The news that application information, the data institutions use to determine the amount of financial aid a student will receive, would not be available for another four weeks – at least – concerned these groups. During a normal cycle, colleges and universities would begin to receive that information in October. This year, the information initially was expected in January.

In their joint statement, the groups encouraged schools to give some latitude to students and families as they consider their offers of admission and financial aid due to the continued delays with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, applicant data.

“During the pandemic, many institutions extended their enrollment, scholarship, and financial aid deadlines beyond the traditional May 1 date, and we urge institutions to make similar accommodations this year,” the statement read. “We all want students and families to have the time they need to consider their financial options before making enrollment decisions.”

El Paso Community College, like all higher education institutions around the country, awaits guidance and information from the Department of Education, said Keri Moe, EPCC’s associate vice president of External Relations Communications & Development.

“While these delays are beyond the institution’s control, EPCC is committed to working with students and will revise deadlines, if possible and as allowed, to ensure as many students who are eligible for financial aid can receive it,” Moe said.  

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso has a series of “priority dates” because its programs in nursing, medicine, dental science and biomedical science start throughout the year.

“Students who submit their FAFSA to us on or before these priority dates are considered for all grants, scholarships and available aid until funds are exhausted,” a center spokesman said. “The university’s Office of Financial Aid will adjust its priority awarding dates based on dates provided by the Department of Education.”

A University of Texas at El Paso spokesman said UTEP does not have a decision deadline.

Justin Draeger, president of the NASFAA, said the current timeline will severely delay award letters and limit the choices of college-going students.

“Our nation’s colleges are once again left scrambling as they determine how best to work within these new timelines to issue aid offers as soon as possible — so the students who can least afford higher education aren’t the ones who ultimately pay the price for these missteps,” Draeger said in a prepared statement.

Andres Orozco, an accounting, business and economics major at EPCC, said he had submitted his FAFSA for the 2024-25 academic year and hoped to receive the same $1,900 the college awarded him last year.

Orozco, a 2023 Irvin High School graduate, sighed when he learned about the latest delay, but was adamant that nothing would keep him from his academic journey. He said that he would divert more of the money he earns working at the Northeast Albertsons supermarket to his college fund if necessary.  

“This is not the best news,” Orozco said. “This will affect a lot of students who need that money to go to school. I will go to school no matter what. I want to finish. I will find a way.”

Angel Waters, a senior at Transmountain Early College High School, said he plans to complete his FAFSA soon. He said he wants to study computer science at UTEP or New Mexico State University, and be part of NMSU’s Air Force ROTC program.

Waters, a first-generation college student, said that while he is not concerned about the delays now, he will be if it takes longer than early March to receive his financial aid letters.

Kayla Carter, a 17-year-old senior who is homeschooled, said that she has yet to fill out her FAFSA, but hopes that she will get enough financial aid to enroll in Heartland Baptist Bible College in Oklahoma City, Okla., to study ministry. If that does not work out, she wants to enroll at EPCC or UTEP as a nursing major.

“Being away from home will be an issue if my (financial aid) is delayed,” said Carter, who lives on the East Side.

The expected delays in the financial aid packages is the latest setback for the new FAFSA, dubbed the “Better” FAFSA because it was designed to be simpler and faster for students and their families to fill out. It also will give students more opportunities for more financial aid. The application overhaul was ordered by Congress as part of the FAFSA Simplification Act.

The form usually is available Oct. 1 and institutions receive the application information within days. This cycle, the Department of Education did not launch the FAFSA until Dec. 30 on a limited basis. It became available around the clock in early January. Initially, the government told colleges and universities to expect the applicant information by late January.

The submitted forms have their own journey, but eventually an ISIR (Institutional Student Information Record) is routed to the higher education institutions or career schools requested by the students. In the past, this process took a few days, but some experts estimate that this cycle could take a few weeks or longer. Once a school receives the applicant information, it usually takes that institution several weeks to evaluate, process, package and send award letters to students. The speed of that process depends on the institution’s resources.

This article first appeared on El Paso Matters and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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