Apr 17, 2024 - Education

How Oregon colleges are responding to FAFSA delays

Illustration of a tangled tassel hanging from a graduation cap.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Public universities and colleges across Oregon are extending enrollment deadlines after a series of federal student aid delays led to fewer high school students filling out the application.

Why it matters: Holdups with the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process means some students face the possibility of having to choose a college without knowing whether they'll be able to afford it.

By the numbers: As of April 5, only 25% of Oregon high school seniors had completed the application, down 33% compared to last year, according to the National College Attainment Network.

  • The number of high school seniors at David Douglas, Portland's largest public school, who'd completed their FAFSA was down 34% from 2023, per NCAN.

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

  • The application opened on Dec. 3o, three months later than in prior years.
  • The new system was marred with technical glitches and a flawed inflation calculator incorrectly lowered the amount of awarded aid for many families — an error that has since been adjusted.

The latest: U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona sent a letter to governors last month, 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 problems have led to delays in processing financial aid offers, complicating college decisions for families.

  • High school seniors usually receive acceptance letters and financial aid offers by mid-April.
  • But far fewer applications have been turned in than in previous years, leaving college administrators scrambling to assemble aid packages before the start of the school year.

Zoom in: The University of Oregon pushed its date for students to accept offers from May 1 to June 1. Oregon State University moved its financial aid deadline from the end of February to May 1.

  • Portland State University's deposit and decision deadline is in August, but the school may make adjustments over the summer if warranted, Elijah Herr, director of financial aid, told Axios.
  • As of last week, the number of filed FAFSAs that PSU had received was down 10-15% compared to 2023, Herr said.

What's next: The deadline for the 2024-25 FAFSA is June 30, 2025, but Herr recommends that students file as soon as possible to have aid in place before fall.

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