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Education Department’s Incompetence on Student Aid Hurts Millions


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Daily Signal

Millions of students each year rely on student loans and grants to afford the rising cost of college. This year, that’s about 17 million Americans.

They fill out the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA. But this year, the U.S. Department of Education is very far behind in processing the forms, and it has committed many major errors.

As a result, most colleges have no idea how much financial aid their students and applicants will get. The students don’t know either.

It’s a six-alarm fire. It’s an EF-5 tornado. It’s a 9.5 earthquake. It’s the Kraken.

 

That’s no exaggeration. FAFSA forms from high school seniors are down about 27%, or about half a million students. It’s unclear whether those students will keep trying or will give up on college.

Some colleges might go under because of the drop in enrollment, with colleges losing not only tuition, but also income from room and board.

Meanwhile, only 7 million FAFSA forms have been transmitted to colleges, but 15% to 30% of them have errors, depending on which recent report one reads.

Observers who have a low opinion of government competence and capacities need to look even lower.

The litany of errors and the timeline of sheer incompetence provided in recent congressional testimony before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce’s Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee is jaw-dropping. Anyone interested in how we got here, and where to place the blame, should read this damning testimony.

All the while, as these financial aid experts note, the Department of Education has provided incomplete and contradictory information day by day, hiding bad news under false headlines of making progress.

A common deadline for students to accept their financial-aid packages and commit to enrollment is May 1. Colleges all over are extending their deadlines. But that’s not enough.

One college president told me:

It’s an actual disaster. And I’m worried it will have a large negative impact for our state. We can’t get our ISIRs [Institutional Student Information Records regarding financial aid eligibility], even for continuing students.

We can’t process summer awards. We can’t even see if new students have submitted their FAFSA for the fall to know if we’ll need additional documents for verification. … It will keep us from being able to award state aid because it’s contingent on federal aid.:snip:

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Biden Botched Financial Aid Rollout. And It’s Parents and Students Who Are Paying the Price.

In a normal year, May 1 is known as National College Decision Day, the deadline for students to commit to enrolling at a college, guided in part by their financial aid awards. But the Biden administration’s disastrous rollout of a new financial aid application has left tens of thousands of families in the dark about their students’ future and prompted several universities to push back their enrollment deadlines.

As of April 19, completed FAFSA applications were down nearly 30%. At best, it means many students and parents don’t know how much it will cost to attend college in the fall. Even worse, it may lead frustrated young people to skip college altogether.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a notoriously cumbersome form that all prospective college students must fill out if they want federal loans or grants.

Previously more than 100 questions long, FAFSA’s current crisis can be traced to 2020, when the FAFSA Simplification Act dropped the number of questions on the form to about 40.

 

Ironically, because of the Biden administration’s incompetence, the simplification has led to massive complications and confusion for families this year as they apply for college. Focused on other priorities, the Biden administration failed to update the FAFSA website before October, when most students start applying.:snip:

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