Apr 12, 2024 - News

FAFSA filings down as deadline looms

Illustration of a tangled tassel hanging from a graduation cap.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Just a few days remain for Texas high school seniors to apply for federal student aid for a shot at the best possible financial aid package from colleges.

  • But far fewer students have submitted the form this year than in past years as delays and glitches plague the process.

Why it matters: Because the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process is working so poorly, some students face the possibility of choosing a college without knowing whether they'll be able to afford it.

How it works: This is the third academic year that Texas high school seniors are required to fill out the FAFSA.

  • The form is how the federal government, states and colleges determine financial aid eligibility.

State of play: The new version of the form was supposed to streamline the notoriously difficult process and expand aid eligibility — but its rollout has been disastrous.

  • The U.S. education secretary sent a letter to governors Tuesday, asking them to adjust state financial aid deadlines, budget for potential state grant aid increases and ensure relevant agencies can process aid efficiently.

Threat level: The issues have led to delays in processing financial aid offers, complicating college decisions.

What they're doing: The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is monitoring the situation ahead of the Monday deadline, but officials haven't decided to push the deadline back for a third time, spokesperson Mike Eddleman tells Axios.

By the numbers: 40% of Texas seniors had completed the application as of March 29, according to the National College Attainment Network.

  • At the same time last year, nearly 60% had done so.

Flashback: Texas' high school class of 2023 left $443 million in Pell grants on the table, per NCAN.

  • More than $4 billion went unclaimed nationally.

Zoom in: Southern Methodist University uses FAFSA and the College Board's CSS Profile to determine financial aid eligibility.

  • While May 1 is the deadline for admitted students to put in a deposit, the university is offering flexibility "on a case-by-case basis" for students who expect to receive need-based aid, a spokesperson tells Axios.

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