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New streamlined FAFSA runs into bugs and delays


There’s a new version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and it’s causing problems for students and families across the country.
Congress passed the FAFSA Simplification Act in 2020, which overhauled the FAFSA form. This includes changes to make filling out the form simpler and easier.
This new FAFSA came out in January and is in a “soft launch” phase. People can fill out the form, but the DOE is still working out bugs and other issues.
Across the country, people reported technical issues with accessing the form, logging in, and even just loading the website.
USM student Valerie Preston was one of those students. She hasn’t submitted her FAFSA yet because she keeps running into technical issues.
“I have not been able to fill out my FAFSA because every time I go onto the website, it either crashes my computer or has a statement saying,” she explained. “They are not taking applications at the moment as the website is under maintenance.”
Alanna McDonald, Assistant Director for Financial Aid Processing at the Office of Financial Aid, is familiar with complaints like Preston’s. The Office of Financial Aid is one of the resources students at USM rely on for information about financial aid. However, McDonald says that they can’t be much help this time. She said that the new form was causing delays and other issues in schools across the nation.
“I think that is somewhat to be expected with all the changes they’re making,” she said. “We’re just hoping that they can get that figured out so that it doesn’t impact students for next fall.”
According to McDonald, students who have trouble with the form can just wait to complete it. They can also contact Federal Student Aid directly. She explained that the university won’t start receiving FAFSAs until mid-March. The delays in releasing the form also means there will be a delay in releasing funds.
Every year, students and their families across the country fill out the FAFSA to apply for federal financial aid. The Department of Education then uses the information to determine who is and is not eligible for federal aid. FAFSA also determines eligibility for scholarships and allows students to apply for work study, among other things.
The new form comes with many new features. The new application is “streamlined,” so there are fewer questions. Anyone who needs to provide information for the FAFSA form – whether that be the student, a parent, or other relative – has to create a FSA ID.
FAFSA replaced the Expected Family Contribution with the Student Aid Index. The SAI is the new way FAFSA determines how much money a student gets based on their parent’s income. The biggest difference is that it doesn’t benefit families with multiple students in college.
Additionally, everyone who fills out the form must give consent to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to import their IRS information.
FSA has a page breaking down all of the updates on their website.

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