FAFSA error may prolong financial aid delays for applicants

The Department of Education disclosed an error in its evaluation of federal student aid, potentially leading to extended delays for thousands of applicants. 

This situation puts numerous students who have sought federal aid for college funding at risk of indefinite postponements, particularly as enrollment deadlines approach.

The Federal Student Aid office, which manages the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), announced on March 24 that its system failed to incorporate all necessary data fields to accurately compute aid based on students' reported assets. 

Consequently, applicants must have their submissions reprocessed and presented to educational institutions.

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"At this stage in the game and after so many delays, every error adds up and will be felt acutely by every student who is counting on need-based financial aid to make their postsecondary dreams a reality," Justin Draeger, the president and CEO of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, said in a statement.

The Department of Education stated that the miscalculation has been rectified without specifying the time frame for reprocessing the impacted applications. 

However, it acknowledged that the agency had disseminated inaccurate information.

Approximately 200,000 applications were affected out of the over 1.5 million already processed in a year, where at least 6 million FAFSAs have been submitted thus far.

The current issue arises amidst a significantly delayed system as officials rush to address technical malfunctions in the online form, handle application processing, and expedite the distribution of financial aid packages. 

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Authorities have expressed their commitment to scaling up processing capacities to provide applicant information to educational institutions promptly. 

According to officials, once this transition is complete, they anticipate requiring approximately two more weeks to process all previously submitted applications.

"We anticipate that it will take about two additional weeks to process all applications that have already been submitted," officials said on March 12.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.