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Spotlight on Financial Aid Awareness Month

Changes to the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form intended to make it easier to complete have had the opposite effect. New York Tech’s Marcelle Hicks and Tricia Bowman explain the challenges and what members of the university community can do. Apr 18, 2024

Each year, every college student, whether new or returning, must complete and submit the FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) in order to be eligible for federal grants and loans. The form is typically available to students in October for the following academic year. However, long-planned changes to the form, intended to make it easier to complete, have had the opposite effect, and its availability for the 2024-2025 academic year was delayed and its user-friendliness negatively impacted.

As a result, there has been tremendous confusion created for students and their families, as well as for college admissions offices. And the number of forms submitted to the federal government, year to date, is substantially lower. To learn more about the FAFSA challenges and what members of the university community can do, New York Tech News spoke with Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Marcelle Hicks and Director of Financial Aid Tricia Bowman.

What is Financial Aid Awareness Month, and why, this year, did the observance of it change from February to April?
Each February, Financial Aid Awareness Month is celebrated by the Financial Aid community to provide important information to help students and families gain access to available sources of financial aid.

Governor Kathy Hochul issued a proclamation declaring April 2024 as Financial Aid Awareness Month in New York State “to help inform students and families of the importance of completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and the many financial aid options available to them.”

There is a decline in FAFSA filers, reportedly as high as 40 percent from prior years, and governors around the country are trying to inform families that it is not too late to file the FAFSA and encourage families to do so as soon as possible.

The FAFSA form is typically released in October each year for the following academic year. What happened recently to change this?

The FAFSA Simplification Act was enacted to simplify the federal aid application process, provide a streamlined user experience, and expand federal aid eligibility starting with the 2024-2025 award year. The number of questions was reduced from over 100 to around 30, and families’ tax information was to be automatically retrieved from the IRS. The Department of Education released a soft launch of the redesigned 2024-2025 FAFSA on December 30, 2023.

During the soft launch of the FAFSA, there were intermittent system outages while the government worked to resolve filing issues.

In a nutshell, what does this delayed availability of the FAFSA form and related filing challenges mean for students?
While many of the known issues have been resolved, and students who need to make corrections to their FAFSAs (due to the aforementioned system outages) are expected to be able to do so in the middle of April, there have been significant delays for colleges and universities in receiving FAFSA information. Those delays are like a domino effect in that these delays pushed back the timing schools had to review the data, make changes to their internal systems, and work to find inconsistencies and errors. The delays in processing have resulted in long delays for colleges and universities to be able to provide students with their financial plans that outline their expected cost of attendance each year.

How does the delay in FAFSA availability impact newly enrolling first-time, full-time students?
The delay in FAFSA availability resulted in a delay in schools receiving FAFSA results from the Department of Education. However, New York Tech has started to receive FAFSA results, and we will be preparing financial aid plans soon.

If they have not done so already, students are encouraged to complete the 2024-2025 FAFSA as soon as possible.

Has New York Tech pushed back its typical May 1 deposit deadline for new students in light of this issue?
New York Tech has extended the deposit deadline to May 15.

What should current New York Tech students and their families do considering this situation? 
Current New York Tech students and their families should file the 2024-2025 FAFSA as soon as possible. Those who have already filed and need to make corrections should look out for notification from the Department of Education regarding access to make FAFSA corrections. Those who do not need to make corrections should wait for the financial assistance plans that will be prepared soon. If any assistance is needed, students should contact the Office of Financial Aid.

This student aid federal government webpage may also be a helpful resource.

What can faculty and staff do to encourage students to apply for federal financial aid despite the difficult process they may have experienced so far? 
Faculty and staff should take every opportunity to remind students to file the 2024-2025 FAFSA as soon as possible.

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