The Chomp

The Student News Site of Gateway Regional High School

The Chomp

The Student News Site of Gateway Regional High School

The Chomp

The Student News Site of Gateway Regional High School

The 2024 FAFSA Frenzy

How the delays are impacting students, parents, and educators
Benjamin Bittner
The 2024-2025 FAFSA website that’s causing so many angst until SAIs are released to families and schools

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form completed by high school seniors to determine students’ eligibility for financial aid. The FAFSA is considered the key for accessing grants, federal student loans, and work-study programs before, and during college. 

The FAFSA provides three types of financial aid: Gift Aid, Student Employment, and Student Loans. Gift Aid is “free” money, typically rewarded through grants or scholarships. Scholarships are awarded based on merit, and grants are awarded based on financial need. Student Employment is money earned through working a part-time job during the academic term.

The employment included is through the Federal Work-Study program and College Work-Study program. Similar to grants, work-study jobs are usually rewarded based on financial need. Student Loans are a type of loan designed to help students pay for “post-secondary” education and associated expenses. These range from tuition, books, and supplies, to even living expenses.

Typically, students fill out this form to gather their eligibility information for these types of financial aid, however in the December 2024 launch of the FAFSA form, came an unexpected delay. The primary reason for the 2024 delay is the late release of a revised FAFSA. This new release was expected to make the process smoother, shorter, and easier, however unexpectedly disrupted the usual process this year. 

According to the Department of Education, “U.S. colleges and universities won’t receive students’ applications for financial aid until at least early March.”

Specifically, NBC News stated, “The delay is the result of the department’s decision to fix an error in how students’ aid eligibility is calculated.”

Furthermore, the Department of Education mentioned that the initial estimate of when it would begin sending FAFSA information to schools in mid-January was a mistake and now says that it will start sending that information in early March.

Many staff involved in the enrollment process of college admissions have been significantly impacted by the delay, as University of Illinois Chicago’s Vice Provost of Enrollment Management Kiely Fletcher stated, “We are seeing chaos, to be perfectly honest.”

In CNBC’s evaluation of the FAFSA delay situation, a higher-up education expert Mark Kantrowitz says, “I am convinced that nobody has been able to submit the form.”

Kantrowitz also mentioned that “Congress required the FAFSA to be available before Jan. 1, 2024. They missed that deadline.”

Along with Fletcher and Kantrowitz, the High School Guidance Counselor at Gateway Regional High School, Melissa Powell, has experienced the drawbacks of the delay. Powell mentions that there is nothing she and other guidance counselors can really do except advise students on how to make FAFSA IDs and where to go to complete that. Along with the FAFSA IDs, there are multiple agencies and colleges that provide workshops at Gateway in the evening and during the school day.

When asked about the biggest conflict with the delay, Powell mentions how some students can’t make their decision on where to attend college because of a lack of information on any financial aid packages, and how colleges cannot give a timeline of when that may happen, as both colleges and high schools are also in a very similar situation.

Regarding whether the change was necessary, Powell mentions that, “At this point in the year, I don’t have enough information to have an opinion on that.”

In terms of collaboration with colleges and parents, Powell said the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) has proved to be very helpful and efficient in terms of getting back quickly, informing parents to call them first before they call the FAFSA, and being a go-to source for any questions the guidance counselors may have.

Colleges have also been very cooperative with Gateway by helping parents and students be informed when guidance tells them to reach out directly to that school’s financial aid office.

A senior at Gateway Regional High School, Francis Scher, had also experienced the impact of the delay. He stated:

I knew the FAFSA was delayed at least until December going into the school year, so it was going to be annoying and manageable. Now it’s been delayed 3 or 4 times since then, which continues to make me more anxious.

— Francis Scher, GRHS Senior

Scher continues, noting that he had checked on 3/6/24 and it still is in the review process, nor at the colleges for them to process. He believes that it is not ideal, especially since he receives emails, texts, and voicemails from colleges asking for his deposit and to officially commit to them.

“Even friends and family are asking if I committed yet, and it just stresses me out,” Scher reports.

Scher also mentions that commitment to a college or university isn’t an easy option: “It’s an option that will affect the rest of your life. So to be left in the dark with my FAFSA feels like a slap in the face.”

In addition to Fletcher, Kantrowitz, Scher, and Powell, a Stockton University Admissions Recruiter, Nicholas McKenney, had a unique perspective on the delays. McKenney outlines that the impact of the delay on admissions decisions was not “great,” or not very detrimental; however, there were significant setbacks with specific programs that are dependent on the FAFSA, such as the EOF program. McKenney continues, mentioning that with anything new in such a large manner conducted by the federal government, he expected that there would be delays.

While he is not surprised there is a delay, McKenney states, “I am surprised with the length of delay.” As for the impact of the general Stockton Admissions staff, McKenney brings up that, “Our office has done a great job problem solving through this, as being flexible is the name of the game at times.”

When asked about if he believes the FAFSA will revert to its original form, or become a more enhanced version, McKenney believes that it will not be reverted and instead will be slowly enhanced while seeing how the changes pan out. He also mentions that this process would be tough to predict until there is an example of how the process would run with new changes. What McKenney thought was the biggest conflict when the delays occurred was creating a timeline of information about when the FAFSA would go live with the new changes.

Concerning completing the FAFSA, McKenney states, “The FAFSA is designed to be an assisting measure for students. I believe that students should fill it out to see what type of options they have, and ultimately make the best possible decision for their college education and the funding of their college education. However, if a student does not plan on utilizing the FAFSA aid at all, I believe it is their right not to fill it out.”

Ultimately, it is a student’s choice as to if it should be filled out; however, it is recommended to fill it out. However, current juniors should know that “Applying for federal financial aid for college has become a high school graduation requirement in New Jersey beginning with the current 11th grade students,” according to a mandate signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy in January.

The unexpected delays created by the new system of the FAFSA have caused frustration and anger from many parents and students; however, it is actively being worked on with the goal of stability once again.

View Comments (2)
Donate to The Chomp

Your donation will support the student journalists of Gateway Regional High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Benjamin Bittner
Benjamin Bittner, Staff Writer
Hi, my name is Benjamin Bittner, I am a senior at Gateway, and I enjoy writing mainly poetry and short stories. I am open to any sort of writing and wish to pursue my dream as a writer providing relaxing, calming poems and stories to ease the minds of those who struggle. My outside hobbies are fishing and volunteering with the VFW. I also like watching sports, typically football.
Donate to The Chomp

Comments (2)

All The Chomp Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • M

    Melissa PowellMar 10, 2024 at 5:32 pm

    Great article Ben! Very professional!

  • M

    MELISSA ECKSTEINMar 10, 2024 at 12:31 pm

    Great article Ben! Very frustrating for the class of 2024 to navigate these changes!