‘Really complicates the whole process;’ FAFSA delay impacting local students, colleges

It’s an option more than 17 million Americans rely on to help pay for college, but a months-long delay in the federal government sending out and then having to correct version of this year’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is creating a big headache for colleges and students across the country.

FAFSA forms are normally available every year on Oct. 1, but a delay from the U.S. Department of Education didn’t make the application forms available until three months later, on Dec. 30.

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Students like Cian McGuire, who is a junior at Wright State University, have to fill out the forms before to see what federal money they qualify for to help pay for college. McGuire told News Center 7′s John Bedell that the delay was confusing.

“(I) couldn’t really find clear information on why that was, but it apparently only opened up this past December. (I) haven’t really had a chance to get to it yet since then,” he said.

Last week, the Department of Education announced another delay of four to six weeks so it can correct a miscalculation. As reported on News Center 7 at 5:30, the fix will make sure FAFSA applicants can get all the financial aid they’re eligible for.

The delay is good news for students but puts colleges in a waiting game as the Department of Education had said it would send FAFSA information to schools in late January. Now it says that information won’t come until the first half of March, which will delay schools from calculating and sending out financial aid offers to students.

In a statement to News Center 7, Jason Reinoehl, Vice President of Strategic Enrollment Management at the University of Dayton, said the repeated delays “have created stress for families making college decisions this year.”

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“You know, that can be really terrible. I personally have to pay a lot of my college out of pocket, so finding out really late can really affect what my next semester is going to be like. There are times (when) I might not know if I’m going to be able to enroll all the way up until a month before. And if I’m not sure about my student aid that just really complicates the whole process,” McGuire said.

This delay is also impacting high school seniors looking at colleges now and getting close to decision time. A lot of colleges use May 1 as a deadline to commit to their school.

News Center reached out to Centerville City Schools on Tuesday and they said they pushed back their annual financial aid information night from October into December and they had a FAFSA form workshop last month.