Apr 10, 2024 - News

Hoosier FAFSA filings down as April 15 deadline looms

Illustration of a tangled tassel hanging from a graduation cap.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Just five days remain to file for federal student aid and be guaranteed to receive maximum eligible assistance, but only one-third of Hoosier high school seniors have submitted the form as delays and glitches plague the process.

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

Driving the news: This is the first year that Hoosier high school seniors are required to fill out the FAFSA (though there are no penalties for those who don't), after a state law passed last year.

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

The big picture: Every year, thousands of Hoosier families skip the FAFSA and leave behind millions of dollars in financial aid.

  • State officials have long sought to get more students to fill out the form, hoping that once families see their aid eligibility, post-secondary education will seem more attainable and boost Indiana's flagging college-going rate.

What's happening: The federal government had a similar goal in mind when it recently launched a new version of the form.

  • It was supposed to streamline the notoriously difficult process and expand aid eligibility, but a disastrous rollout with technical glitches and incorrect information being shared has meant far fewer applications have been turned in at this point than in previous years.
  • And, because of changes in the aid formula, there is no way to predict how much aid a family will receive.

Zoom in: According to the National College Attainment Network's FAFSA tracker, 34% of Hoosier high school seniors had submitted the form as of March 29.

  • At the same time last year, more than 40% of seniors had done so.

Between the lines: Schools are having to decide between using faulty information that could mean students are on the hook for higher tuition bills after next school year, delaying their enrollment process or asking families to make a decision without knowing their full aid package.

What they're saying: "It's a nightmare," said Bill Wozniak, with INvested, a group that provides Hoosiers with free FAFSA filing help.

Yes, but: You should still submit the form, Wozniak told Axios, or at least as much of it as you can.

  • "Everyone is so aware of what a train wreck this is," he said, that financial aid officers won't hold it against families who need to edit the form later on, as long as they submit what they can by the deadline.

How it works: The priority deadline for FAFSA filing in Indiana is Monday, meaning that's the last day to file and be guaranteed to receive the maximum aid a family is eligible for.

  • After Monday, aid will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

What's next: Wozniak said glitches are still being ironed out.

The bottom line: INvested's free FAFSA help hotline is 317-715-9007.


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