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College Aid Decisions Delayed For Incoming Students Over FAFSA Errors

As graduation looms, many high school seniors are still waiting for vital financial-aid information that could affect whether they are able to go to college this upcoming fall.

“Normally we would have aid packages out in December,” Mississippi State University Executive Director of Financial Aid Lori Ball told the Mississippi Free Press on April 22. “This is the middle of April, and we still have not awarded our financial aid for the upcoming year. And we have to roll it out very soon.”

On March 22, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it had discovered an error in calculating the Free Application for Federal Student Aid formula. The miscalculation caused colleges and universities to receive incorrect information for applicants who completed their application before March 21. Those applications had to be reprocessed, causing delays in notifying students about the amount of aid they were eligible to receive.

“What they told us was that we have affected files in unaffected files,” Ball said. “I believe (the date) was March 21. There were a lot of applications that were sent out prior to that where federal tax information was being reported incorrectly. So what we have termed is those files were affected. For those that are unaffected, we were able to move forward with those applications. Those that are affected are being reprocessed by the Department of Education.”

The FAFSA helps colleges and universities determine eligibility for various forms of financial aid, including scholarships, work-study programs and grants. The Pell Grant, the largest source of federal aid for many students from low- and moderate-income backgrounds, is dependent on FAFSA information. Each year, nearly 7 million undergraduate students benefit from Pell grants.

Mississippi Submissions Down 37% Since 2023

The announcement of another setback frustrated financial aid officials nationwide who had already been dealing with delays. The U.S. Department of Education overhauled the application in accordance with the FAFSA Simplification Act, which Congress passed in 2020. However, the launch of the new form delayed its availability by three months. Once available, applicants experienced system crashes, long wait times and systemwide glitches.

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