The Department of Education is supposed to release an updated version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid in October, but organizations representing financial aid officers and college access groups are seeking to confirm that timeline.
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the National College Attainment Network wrote to the White House and the department last month to ask whether the administration could confirm that the 2024–25 FAFSA will be ready Oct. 1, as currently planned.
The organizations have not yet received an answer to the letter, which was made public this month.
NASFAA and other organizations have previously raised concerns about whether the department could meet the Oct. 1 deadline, given all the projects that the Office of Federal Student Aid is tackling and the work involved to update the application, which is the key to unlocking federal financial aid for millions of students each year.
The letter was sent before the fiscal year 2023 federal budget was released and subsequently signed into law. That budget does not provide additional funding for the Office of Federal Student Aid, which could hamper the office’s work on simplifying the FAFSA and on other projects.
FAFSA simplification includes an overhaul of the financial aid system that changes how students apply for financial aid and how that aid is disbursed.
Colleges, universities and college access groups are already preparing for the 2024–25 application and award process.
“They must have a clear understanding today of when the FAFSA will be made available,” the letter says. “Without adequate time to prepare, institutions and counselors may not be able to align their systems and processes to the compressed timeline or provide the services and support that many students need to complete the FAFSA.”
The department shared additional details about the overhaul at a December conference and shared a draft specifications guide and timeline late last month.
“To date, schedules for critical elements like file layouts, software developer specifications, draft applications, and output documents indicate only a planned season for release,” the letter says. “With fewer than 10 months to the expected launch date, we are becoming increasingly concerned that we do not have a detailed milestones document that includes dates for testing. Several timelines FSA has shared already differ significantly from prior years and appear incompatible with an October launch of the FAFSA.”