U.S. Department of Education slowly releases FAFSA

Jan. 4, 2024, 6 a.m. ·

The FAFSA website
The federal government is slowly releasing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for students to complete. (Screenshot by Jolie Peal/Nebraska Public Media News)

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As JP Moore, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln freshman, sat watching a football game last weekend, he kept refreshing the student aid website. After about two hours, he was finally able to access the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

“I think I just got lucky at one point and was able to get in,” Moore said.

The U.S. Department of Education soft-launched the 2024-25 FAFSA form this week. Typically, the form is released in October. The release was delayed this year due to needed changes because of the FAFSA Simplification Act. These changes include the student and their parents each needing their own accounts to fill out the form.

Moore was one of a few who got into the website to complete the FAFSA. It took him two tries to submit because of issues with the button to sign his form.

The government is slowly rolling out the form so they can fix problems like this to make the process smoother when it’s fully rolled out. Moore said it was easier to fill out the application last year because there were less technical difficulties and his mom helped a lot.

Tom Ochsner is the director of scholarships and financial aid at Nebraska Wesleyan University. He described this year’s process as “slow.”

“To a degree, some people are frustrated that it's taking so long to get it open,” Ochsner said. “Then having it roll out softly, it's just not a good situation. But you know, we're dealing with it as best we can.”

He said he expects the application will be fully released by the end of the month, which is when colleges will start receiving completed forms to begin reviewing.

Ochsner said he’ll have less time to put together financial aid offers than previous years because of the delays. He usually reviews financial aid packages for about 1,400 students.

“With the way the government has done it this year, we're condensing what normally would be, I would work over a seven month period getting award letters out to prospective students and their families,” Ochsner said. “We're condensing that down to about three months now.”

The delay in the FAFSA rollout impacts the whole college process, with students being unable to make fully informed decisions on where to go. Ochsner said although the FAFSA is slower this year, students are still paying admissions deposits for the next year.

“I think a lot of families maybe are just hedging,” Ochsner said. “They want to get their deposit in the schools they think they want to go to. Whether or not those are going to be firm deposits, I guess we’ll find out once the packages go out.”

At Nebraska Wesleyan, Ochsner said they created their own financial aid form to give students an estimate of what their aid would look like. However, he said this is not a replacement for the FAFSA and students still need to complete the federal form.