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webpage with the word FAFSA

The new simplified FAFSA launched Dec. 30 but was not fully available until Jan. 6. The website now lacks a message at the top warning users of shutdowns for periodic maintenance.

Office of Federal Student Aid

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is officially open for business as usual, the Department of Education announced Monday afternoon, hopefully marking the end of a confusing, error-ridden and much-delayed launch process. 

Barring any further complications, the new form—which changed substantially through a congressionally mandated simplification process—will be “continuously available except for routine maintenance, typical of any FAFSA cycle,” Federal Student Aid chief Richard Cordray wrote in a statement.

Following a soft launch on Dec. 30—just ahead of the federally mandated Jan. 1 deadline—the form was unavailable to students for most of its first few days and has been off-line for many hours each day since, prompting a deluge of complaints from parents and counselors. And maintenance to the Internal Revenue Service system closed down the form for most of the day Sunday, compounding frustrations. 

The new FAFSA is meant to be easier for families to fill out, with fewer required questions and simplified processes for importing tax and income data. More low-income students are also expected to qualify for larger Pell Grants under the Student Aid Index, which will replace the Estimated Family Contribution—though some middle-income families, like those with multiple children in college or small-business owners, will likely pay more. 

The form is still technically in its soft launch period until the end of January, but the department’s announcement suggests the website is stabilizing.