Financial aid administrators at colleges and universities say a lack of time and guidance from the U.S. Department of Education are key barriers they’ll face in preparing to carry out the coming overhaul of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
A simplified version of the new application is set to go live sometime this fall. The new application is just one of several changes the department is making as part of the overhaul, known as FAFSA simplification, which also includes changing the formula that determines how much money a student gets and updating the eligibility criteria for the Pell Grant.
Department officials said earlier this month that the simplified application might not be ready by Oct. 1—the launch date for the FAFSA since 2016.
In a survey conducted by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, about 59 percent of financial aid officers said they were somewhat on track in terms of their level of preparedness for FAFSA simplification, according to the results released Monday. About 28 percent said they were mostly or completely on track, while 10 percent said they weren’t on track at all.
About 374 people took the survey, representing financial aid offices at public, private, community college and proprietary colleges throughout the country.
In addition to lack of time and guidance from the department, respondents said staffing shortages in financial aid offices will hinder implementation efforts and they weren’t confident that Student Information System providers will be ready for changes.
NASFAA president Justin Draeger said in a statement that financial aid professionals need timely training opportunities and more information about the simplification timeline, including when the new application will launch.
“Financial aid professionals are often the first responders when students and families have questions about paying for college, and with such monumental changes to student aid eligibility and the FAFSA looming, they need to be well prepared to ensure a smooth transition and well versed in communicating how those changes will impact their students,” Draeger said in a statement.