Jun 6, 2024 - News

Tennessee extends FAFSA deadline again

Illustration of a large pile of money with a graduation cap on top.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Tennessee has extended its deadline to apply for federal student aid until Aug. 1 to accommodate an especially chaotic year.

Why it matters: A new streamlined version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid was supposed to simplify a confusing and intimidating process this year. But the rollout was marred by glitches that kept some students from applying.

  • Tennessee officials say the extension will allow them to help those students and families.

State of play: The federal government delayed the release of the new FAFSA. Once it was available, many families faced unexpected challenges logging in and submitting the online form.

  • Tennessee repeatedly postponed its FAFSA deadline to accommodate those roadblocks.
  • The state remains a national leader for FAFSA completions, but numbers are down year over year.

What they're saying: "It's just been a really bad rollout of ultimately a good thing," Steven Gentile, the executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, tells Axios.

  • Gentile says the form should prove easier for families once the initial kinks are ironed out.
  • In the meantime, THEC is assisting families through webinars, online guides and a phone hotline (1-800-342-1663).

Between the lines: Completing the FAFSA is a cumbersome but critical step toward paying for higher education. Families must file to get need-based federal aid and participate in state scholarship programs.

By the numbers: Tennessee has generally done a good job helping students complete the FAFSA. So far this year, the National College Attainment Network reports that 56% of the state's graduating high school seniors have completed their applications.

  • That's the highest rate in the country and well above the nationwide rate of 42.5%.
  • Completion rates are higher among Tennessee Promise applicants, who must file in order to attend community or technical college tuition-free.

Yes, but: Tennessee's numbers still lag compared to last year.

The latest: The state recently received a $1 million grant to help close the gap with a media campaign and other outreach.

  • "We've got the summer to make up some ground," Gentile says. "So we are optimistic."

The bottom line: Krissy DeAlejandro, who leads the tnAchieves organization that promotes college access and completion, urges students not to be sidelined by "noise" surrounding the FAFSA this year.

  • "I understand how intimidating it can be," DeAlejandro tells Axios. "Just ask for help."
  • "It can be done. We will get it done."
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