Apr 12, 2024 - News

FAFSA filings down in Texas as deadline looms

Illustration of a tangled tassel hanging from a graduation cap.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Just a few days remain to file for federal student aid and be guaranteed to receive maximum eligible assistance, but far fewer Texas high school seniors 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 are now facing the possibility of enrolling at a college without knowing whether they'll ultimately be able to afford it.

Driving the news: U.S. education secretary Miguel Cardona sent a letter to governors April 9 asking them to encourage college students and their families to complete federal financial aid applications.

  • He also asked governors to adjust state financial aid deadlines, budget for potential state grant aid increases and ensure relevant agencies have the resources to process aid efficiently.

What they're saying: The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is monitoring the situation ahead of today's deadline, but officials hadn't decided as of late last week to push the deadline back for a third time, spokesperson Mike Eddleman told Axios.

  • Texas A&M University, meanwhile, moved the confirmation deadline for admissions from May 1 to June 1, spokesperson Delisa Falks told Axios Sunday.
  • The University of Texas did not respond to requests for comment.

The big picture: The new version of the form 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.

Zoom in: 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.

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

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

Yes, but: While Texas applications are outpacing the national rate of 35%, the dip in Texas is larger than the national drop of 27%.

Threat level: Texas' high school class of 2023 left $443 million in Pell grants on the table, according to the NCAN.

  • More than $4 billion went unclaimed nationally.

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.

Zoom out: The unusually chaotic college admissions season is also paired with major changes to standardized testing. Also, this is the first application cycle without affirmative action after the Supreme Court banned consideration of race in college admissions.

  • Colleges and universities are dealing with a larger reckoning as enrollment continues to decline.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has been helping the Department of Education communicate with Texas schools, including hosting an online FAFSA briefing in late March between the two groups, Edelman says.

  • The University of Texas and Texas A&M, the two largest higher education systems in the state, did not respond to Axios' requests for comment.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios San Antonio.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More San Antonio stories

No stories could be found

San Antoniopostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios San Antonio.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more