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As of March 29, 40 percent fewer high school students had completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid than they did by that date in 2023, according to newly released data from the U.S. Education Department, a massive drop caused largely by the new form’s disastrous rollout.

The new federal data is the first to separate completion rates as a subset of submission rates, according to the National College Attainment Network. FAFSA submissions, which include forms that still need corrections, are down 27 percent year-over-year.

The 13 percent difference between completions and submissions implies a larger-than-usual number of form errors this year, which the Education Department said cannot be corrected until processing is completed in mid-April. That could set back colleges’ already-delayed timelines on sending financial aid packages, and give students even less leeway to decide which college to attend based on accurate cost information.

“In previous years, FAFSA submissions have been about 7 percent larger than FAFSA completions. This year, through March 29, FAFSA submissions are a whopping 30 percent larger,” Bill DeBaun, NCAN’s senior director of data and strategic initiatives, wrote in a blog post Monday. “This is likely due to students and contributors still being unable to make corrections to their submitted FAFSAs.”

Now, as the school year inches toward a close, college-access advocates worry that the completion nosedive could lead to a similar drop in enrollment, especially among low-income and first-generation students who rely most heavily on federal aid.