You have /5 articles left.
Sign up for a free account or log in.

The Education Department acknowledged Friday that a calculation error led to inaccurate aid estimates for a sizable portion of student aid forms processed in the past few months.

“The FAFSA Processing System (FPS) was not including all data fields needed to correctly calculate the Student Aid Index [SAI] for dependent students who reported assets,” department officials wrote in an announcement. “This issue resulted in inaccurate ISIRs [Institutional Student Information Records] for dependent students with assets delivered [to institutions] prior to March 21, 2024.”

The department said that of the 1.5 million FAFSAs currently processed, about 200,000 were affected by the miscalculation and will need to be reprocessed and re-sent to institutions. In the meantime, they recommended that colleges recalculate affected students’ SAIs manually in order to estimate aid packages sooner.

Colleges began receiving small batches of ISIRs last week, but the pace of the delivery—and technical issues with software built to receive the student aid data—has hampered progress. The latest mistake could further hamstring institutions racing to get students accurate financial aid offers before May.

Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, bemoaned the department’s latest miscalculation as “another unforced error that will likely cause more processing delays for students.”

“At this stage in the game and after so many delays, every error adds up and will be felt acutely by every student who is counting on need-based financial aid to make their postsecondary dreams a reality,” he wrote in a statement. “It is not feasible or realistic to send out incorrect FAFSA data and ask thousands of schools to make real-time calculations and adjustments to the federal formula on the school side.”

The hiccup is the latest in a long line of errors and delays that have vexed financial aid offices and disrupted college admissions timelines, forcing many institutions to push back their commitment deadlines. The department had previously made several calculation errors while rolling out the new form, including failing to account for historic inflation and introducing a formula error that would have mistakenly expanded PELL eligibility, which Congress intervened to fix.