Who Got the Most Hurt by FAFSA Delays?

Amy Jenkins
July 2, 2024

The delays with the 24-25 FAFSA impacted higher education institutions and the students and families they serve in a myriad of ways - mostly negative.  The delayed opening followed by the technical challenges, delayed ISIRs and more technical challenges forced most schools to send out aid offers later (sometimes months later than in years prior) leaving many students to make decisions in an information vacuum, unsure of their financial aid.

Financial aid is absolutely essential for the majority of students that want to attend college. Nearly 84% of students receive some form of financial aid.  Both students and universities rely on a combination of federal, state and institutional aid to drive down the cost for students, even as the tuition (aka sticker price) rises.

Schools have to be able to communicate to students about their aid - the earlier the better.  

Two major factors got in the way this year:

  1. The technical challenges with the FAFSA - including making it nearly impossible for students or families without a SS number to fill out - led to a decrease in FAFSA completion rates
  2. The delays with the data blocked schools from processing and packaging aid

And the students who were impacted the most were low-income students and students of color, who are often more dependent on financial aid to afford college: 88% of Black students, 87% of Native students, and 82% of Latino students received some type of financial aid.

Completion Rates

Reports indicate that schools with higher populations of low-income and minority students see larger declines in FAFSA completion rates. This trend threatens to widen the educational attainment gap and underscores the need for targeted outreach and support to these communities during the financial aid application process.

Many high schools stepped up as did the colleges around them, but there is more work to do, especially for students coming from under-resourced and understaffed high schools.

Processing Delays

The delayed opening of the FAFSA (December 31, 2023) was already cause for concern but it was the delayed ISIRs, and the problems with the ISIRs once set, that created the biggest impediments. To date (June 2024) many schools are still waiting for data, trying to fix incorrect data, and dealing with data not loading or showing in their systems.  While students less dependent on aid may have been able to make choices without knowing their total package, other students were forced to make more difficult decisions such as attending a different school than they hoped for or not going at all. 


It is too early to know if the FAFSA will open on October 1st this year so schools need to consider alternative solutions to communicate with students about their financial aid.  Our white-paper offers some suggestions, including how a net price calculator (NPC) can help.

Download it here.

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