Assistant vice chancellor of financial aid calls federal aid overhaul a ‘FAFSA fiasco’

The FASFA overhaul, aimed to save time and simplify the application process, has become a ‘FASFA fiasco,’ due to ongoing issues, said Jevita Rogers, assistant vice chancellor of financial aid.

FAFSA, or the free application for federal student aid, usually opens at the start of every October; the opening date was pushed back to Dec. 30 because the Department of Education launched an overhaul of the application, which has created delays and other issues.

UCCS was supposed to receive FASFA information on Jan. 31 but is still struggling to get the correct FASFA information out to students. Rogers said that delays and a kink in communication has made it difficult for her office to tell students what FASFA aid they are eligible for, which can determine whether some students have enough money for higher education.

“It changes their life to get a degree … nothing has been simple for the students that are affected by this,” Rogers said.

Rogers added that the FASFA can also heavily influence if a potential student applies to and attends UCCS. “UCCS doesn’t have a commit date … that gives a little bit of breathing room for incoming students, but they still need to commit,” Rogers said.

Upon launch, the new system felt incomplete to Rogers due to the numerous delays and hiccups. She was recently made aware of another issue created by the U.S. Department of Education that has affected around 2% of students in the country.

“About 2% for the country is about a million records,” Rogers said. She said it’s another example of the inconsistencies in information provided by the federal government, adding that the school cannot rely on the information sent by the Department of Education.

The government sent her a follow-up email notifying the UCCS financial aid office that the number of students affected may be closer to 20%, 10 times more than initial calculations.

Another issue Rogers noted was that students who filed for the FASFA in January didn’t get their information processed until March, which is much longer than the previous 24-hour turnaround window.

Rogers monitors the FAFSA process by filling one out every year to see what students see, and she found several issues, noting the application was not live for very long and that the program reduced the number of times that you could transfer data.

Rogers said enrolled UCCS students who are experiencing FAFSA delays have a slightly easier road ahead because there’s a buffer in place for them since their grades and eligibility are posted after the spring semester.

The FAFSA issues primarily affect incoming students, who are seeing if they can financially handle college four months from now.

Significant amounts of scholarships at UCCS are based off information from FAFSA data, so even UCCS-specific scholarships have been delayed. Scholarship essays and other general information are still being reviewed, but scholarships cannot be matched up to students without reliable FAFSA data.

The FAFSA overhaul began after the U.S. Congress passed the FASFA Simplification Act in 2020 to streamline the process.

The new system significantly reduced the amount of questions required for students to fill out, on top of increasing the amount of students eligible for numerous grants and programs that bring down the cost of tuition for students.

Despite this, Rogers said the new FAFSA program has been difficult for financial aid faculty to work with. Combine this with delays in getting FAFSA data, on top of miscalculations about who is affected by these delays, and UCCS is left having to wait to send aid information to students who need it.

Rogers is hopeful for the future and emphasized that her heart goes out to students being impacted by these delays. She said that it’s important that people have a voice in this situation and inform the department of education about how problematic this was to deal with.

“Students, aid administrators [and] non-aid administrators in higher education need to let the federal government know that when they’re changing legislation, they need to think about who they’re affecting,” Rogers said.

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