Written by Dr. Aaron Thompson, Mason Dyer, and Joe Carroll Ellis
Featured on NKyTribune
If you're thinking about attending college next year, whether as a high school student, a parent, or an adult looking to go back to school, you've probably been told that filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is difficult. There will be. An important step in earning a degree or certification.
That's undeniably true. The FAFSA is a key enabler of federal, state, and institutional need-based aid to help low- and moderate-income Kentuckians pay for college. Last year, Kentucky students received about $400 million in Pell Grants from the federal government. More than $200 million in need-based aid funded by the Kentucky Lottery, administered by the Kentucky Office of Higher Education Assistance. In addition, hundreds of millions of dollars are provided in institutional aid from Kentucky's public and independent colleges and universities.
The good news is that new FAFSA forms and formulas for the 2024-25 school year will allow even more Kentuckians to qualify for need-based aid.
However, these changes to the FAFSA process have caused delays, confusion, and uncertainty. In a normal year, the FAFSA would open on October 1st, and students applying for the FAFSA in the fall should have received their financial aid notice by now. Instead, his new FAFSA has been available to most students for just over a month.
Here's how the FAFSA works: When a student submits a form, the U.S. Department of Education processes the information and sends it to the university. The university uses that information to determine whether a student is eligible for federal, state, or institutional aid. They build financial aid packages and provide students with an estimate of the amount of aid they are eligible to receive and how much college will actually cost.
Just last week, the U.S. Department of Education announced that colleges would not receive the FAFSA data needed to calculate students' financial aid packages until at least mid-March. That means students likely won't receive financial aid notices until April at the earliest.
We understand that this delay is frustrating as students wait for the financial aid information they need to make decisions about their future.
Message to students and parents
Our message to students and parents is: Be patient with your college financial aid office. All universities in the country are in the same situation waiting for this FAFSA information. The rollout of the FAFSA is concerning for them, too, and they just want students to get an accurate picture of their financial aid packages as quickly as possible.
If you have already completed the FAFSA, kudos to you. If you haven't already done so, we recommend filing the FAFSA now. Applications are then placed in a queue and schools can begin processing them as soon as they receive information from the U.S. Department of Education. If you need assistance applying to the FAFSA, please contact a KHEAA Outreach Counselor at http://kheaa.com or the financial aid office of the Kentucky college or university to which you are applying.
A college education is the best investment you can make in your future, and we are working to help Kentuckians take advantage of all available financial aid.
Dr. Aaron Thompsonis the president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. mason dyer He is president of the Association of Independent Kentucky Universities.and jo carol ellis He is executive director and CEO of the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority and the Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corporation.