New FAFSA system plagued with technical glitches, delays

As the clock ticks on college decision deadlines, the rollout of a new FAFSA system is causing additional obstacles.

"There's been one problem after another," said Jack Wallace, director of governmental relations at Yrefy.

Not only does FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid, allow students to be considered for federal student aid, but states and colleges use the FAFSA information to award their own grants, scholarships and loans.

Initially, instead of the fall, the new system was up and running on New Year’s Eve. However, technical glitches followed along with other issues including miscalculation of inflation. 

"Now the form itself is simpler, but with the rollout that the department did with the delay and then all the technical problems, it’s been a very stressful situation for parents and for students," said Wallace.

Changes include condensing the application questions and allowing the guardian who financially supports the student to keep their information private.

"This year, the parent or the guardian can check a box and the information will be automatically sent from the IRS to the Department of Education, and they don’t have to share that with the student," said Wallace.

However, the issues have caused a bit of a domino effect; delays in processing, delays in colleges receiving FAFSA information and delays in students getting award letters. More than just an inconvenience, it could impact college decisions for those on a budget.


"Historically, you know, a safety school meant one that's going to give you admission. I think this year, given what's going on the financial aid side and the delays, I think we have to add another category to that," said Wallace. "Not only a school that we're going to be admitted to, but one that the family and the student can afford."

As recently as late March, the Education Department announced an error in its calculations resulting in additional delays for thousands of applicants. 

Overall, fewer students have even completed the FAFSA this year, roughly 70% compared to last year, according to the National College Attainment Network’s FAFSA tracker.

This comes as National College Decision Day, a commitment deadline for many schools, is a month away, though some have extended the deadline.

"Normally the award letters would be out by now, and they're slowly but surely trickling out," said Wallace.

According to the U.S. Dept. of Education, for priority consideration, Texans should submit FAFSA applications by April 15, though the deadline could vary with individual schools. 

For example, Austin Community College extended its priority deadline to May 1.

For more information or to complete the FAFSA form, click here.

Have a story idea or problem you need help with? Email