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New FAFSA form poses delays and technical difficulties for current students and applicants

February 16, 2024

Filling out the Free Application for Federal Aid (FAFSA) has always been a lot of work for students, but the form has become more troublesome following new challenges in this year’s rollout, including a delay in colleges receiving student FAFSA information.

A new version of the FAFSA form was introduced in late December with the intent of simplifying the application process, but applicants and current students encountered technical issues portal lockouts and page freezes. Applicants may have also received incorrect financial aid estimates due to the accidental use of an older formula to calculate aid in place of the new calculation formula, the “Student Aid Index.”

As a result of these setbacks, colleges will receive information to determine an applicant’s financial aid eligibility in the first half of March—about a month later than usual.

According to Claudia Marroquin, dean of admissions and student aid, the delay in information will not greatly impact the College’s admissions timeline nor its ability to offer aid to students.

“We are certainly paying attention to what is happening in the field, but the FAFSA delay does not impact our work in a way that prevents us from getting aid offers out to students,” Marroquin wrote in an email to the Orient. “Bowdoin has always required the CSS Profile for students to award our institutional aid through our need-based approach. The FAFSA information is used to determine a student’s eligibility for federal funds like the Pell Grant or SEOG [Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant]. If a student is eligible for either of those federal grants, those monies would replace the Bowdoin grant that had been awarded.”

Marroquin also noted that throughout Early Decision and the Questbridge match rounds, students have already received aid awards that were not affected by the delay. Even so, Marroquin fears that challenges with the FAFSA form may discourage students eligible for federal aid from applying to college.

“We share the same worries about the delay in the FAFSA and the issues experienced by students and their family members,” Marroquin wrote. “We worry that the issues with the rollout of the FAFSA will lead to a decline in low-income students attending college across the country and that the experience of applying to colleges has been even more challenging for some students.”

While Director of Student Aid Mike Albano believes the new, simplified form has the potential to make the application process easier, he explained in an email to the Orient that its current iteration presents challenges for applicants.

“At present there are vast differences in the user experience given the delayed launch, new processes and a lag in information that we would typically have to help support our families,” Albano wrote. “I worry with this first application cycle that many might feel frustrated because of the issues I mentioned previously. Going forward, I worry about the potential of delays in future years with a timely launch that is routinely October 1.”

Other liberal arts colleges in Maine, like Bates College and Colby College, are facing similar challenges—but have also reassured applicants about deadlines.

In a statement released to the Orient by Media Relations Specialist Mary Pols on behalf of Bates College, Bates extended its deadline to complete the FAFSA to February 15—as opposed to its standard January 10 deadline—and reassured applicants that the college will communicate if the delay causes more challenges.

“[T]he FAFSA delay has not and will not have any impact on our ability to provide financial aid offers to students when they receive their admission to Bates. We will still require the FAFSA to be completed, but we will use it only to calculate eligibility for federal aid,” the statement read. “Because we will still be able to award financial aid to students in a timely fashion, our enrollment date remains the same, May 1. However, if for any reason the FAFSA delays create extenuating circumstances, we will work with students on a case-by-case basis as we always do.”

Colby College currently states on its admissions and financial aid website that applicants will still be fully considered for admission even if they do not complete their financial aid application by March 1.

“We are continuing to monitor the rollout of the [FAFSA] and understand that some students may not yet be able to complete it,” Colby wrote on its website. “Due to federal government processing delays, the Colby applicant portal may not be updated to reflect receipt of the FAFSA until mid-March.”

The Bowdoin Office of Student Aid notified returning students via email to inform them that the College hopes to have returning student aid notices available by mid-June.


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