Some Colleges Are Pivoting as FAFSA Delays Drag On

The state schools in California and many other colleges are extending their May 1 commitment deadlines. Some are also creating new aid forms.

The University of California and California State University systems on Wednesday became the latest of a growing list of schools to give applicants extensions on their intent to register, now that colleges won’t get federal financial aid data until at least March.

At least 25 schools will no longer require commitments by May 1, since they may not be able to send admitted students financial aid offers until April. A few schools have created new aid forms or processes on the fly to award their own grants and scholarships.

What is increasingly resembling a kind of financial-aid free-for-all comes as a result of what was supposed to be simplification.

In 2020, Congress passed a law that required enormous changes to the processes used to award federal aid. The first was to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, form to make it easier to complete. Another was to the formula that doles out federal aid, which was made in part to offer more help to lower-income students.

By law, the Education Department was supposed to unveil the new FAFSA by the end of December.

It met that deadline, but some students and their parents have had trouble completing the form, and it will be March before colleges get any FAFSA data at all. Once they do, they must turn around and make confirmed aid offers to students, which will generally take several weeks more.

In usual circumstances, most schools want commitments from admitted undergraduate students by May 1. The University of California system has now pushed that out to May 15 for all but out-of-state and international applicants to the Berkeley campus. It won’t make financial aid offers until mid-April and may extend its new May 15 reply deadline if the Education Department falls further behind. The Cal State system and its 23 schools made a similar announcement.

Tell us how you are you handling FAFSA challenges.

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