February 8, 2024

Another FAFSA Delay: What to Know

Last week, The Department of Education announced another delay in the rollout of the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, telling colleges that they will not begin receiving applicants’ federal aid information until March at the earliest. This comes as the latest news in a series of delays and uncertainties around the overhaul of the form.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Anthology’s Vice President of Product Management and SIS/ERP pro Raymond Todd Blackwood and dive into what all of this means.

What is the newest delay with the FAFSA form?

The main thing that is driving this specific delay is related to the Student Aid Index Calculation (SAI). This estimates how much a family can afford to pay. When the new FAFSA form launched it was relying on old price index figures, not accounting for inflation. Because inflation has been so high the calculations were causing students who would have been eligible for Pell Grants to now be ineligible. Now they're going back and they're updating the data behind the scenes to account for inflation so that they don't deny students who should be eligible for grants.

What does this mean for colleges and universities?

These delays are severely impacting admission departments’ ability to give offers to incoming freshmen. Without a realistic financial plan on what it's going to cost and what financial aid they are going to be eligible for, students are left unsure about what tuition will actually cost. At the end of the day, anyone who's enrolled for the fall semester is going to get the funding that they're eligible for. The challenge right now is everything is going to be compressed into a tight timeline and will happen very last minute. These delays are likely going to impact fall enrollment numbers across the board.

What is the impact of the delays on students and families who are applying to college?

The reason for the changes in the financial aid model is to expand access to aid for students who were previously struggling with increasing costs. These delays are impacting first-generation students and students from challenging socioeconomic backgrounds who need an affordable way to pursue a college degree. It's supposed to make the process easier, but so far it hasn’t. Now families are going to have to make a commitment on where they're going to go to school not knowing fully how much it's going to cost.

What does it mean for Anthology?

Anthology is solely focused on higher education and meeting the needs of those customers. This commitment has allowed us to be laser-focused on the FAFSA changes and to continuously invest in our solutions. While other vendors only serve higher education as one of their many audiences or have multiple and competing products, Anthology has remained committed to meeting the needs of our higher education customers. Anthology has aggressively worked ahead, not to only meet the minimum requirements, but to make sure our users are prepared and Anthology® Student is ready to continue to support their operations.

In case you missed it, check out Anthology’s ISIR Code Crosswalk resource to start getting ready for FAFSA changes as they arrive.

What has been the impact on Anthology Student (SIS)?

The product itself has undergone massive changes in both the data structure and the calculations for awarding financial aid. Anthology has been at the forefront of these changes—coding ahead, working with the Department of Education, and engaging with our customers. Anthology brought an ISIR crosswalk, addressing the status of more than 900 ISIR codes based on Department of Education guidance, to the market, allowing customers and others to see the differences in the data that they're used to and how that's going to be different in the new format.

Anthology Student customers who have adopted the new releases can start to experiment with scenarios in their test environments and start preparing for different use cases. When these ISIRs finally arrive and new packaging is available for financial awards, those Anthology Student customers who have taken the steps to optimize the configurations will be best suited to automatically package student financial packages as quickly as possible. Those slow to adopt optimization capabilities are going to be pressed for time and will be facing pressures from outside their departments.

Witness it in action! Anthology Student recently released direct to financial aid capabilities. Check out the demo.

What can we do while we wait?

While institutions have been looking for ways to increase enrollment—not to have reasons created to prevent enrollment—it’s important to be as proactive as possible. Get in front of these new changes, explain what they mean. Look for ways to get families to be a part of responding to the delay. The more you can talk to parents and students about the long-term benefits of the FAFSA changes, the more it will help them understand the delays and the value of what we are all working towards together.

While we are all left waiting and wondering what the lasting consequences of these delays might be, we are in this together! If you are interested in learning more about how Anthology can partner with you or want to discuss our optimization, get connected with us today.