Colleges and universities finally able to begin sending students financial aid offers

Posted at 1:51 PM, Apr 17, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-17 13:51:13-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Department of Education says it finally cleared the backlog of financial aid applications and sent them to colleges and universities. Some 7 million students filled out the FAFSA online in the early months of 2024.

The process has plagued both students and universities this year as a series of glitches lead to delays in being able to submit and schools receiving the correct information. Higher education institutions rely on the FAFSA data to formulate financial aid packages for students. Students, particularly incoming freshmen, make decisions about where to attend school based in part on what loans and grants are available.

At this month’s Board of Visitors meeting, VCU officials received an update on how its Student Financial Services office is handling the challenges.

“What we're aiming for is that we'll get financial aid packages out prior to the end of April, and we're trying to do that as quickly as possible,” Dr. Hernan Bucheli, the interim Vice President for Strategic Enrollment Management, told the board.

“Why is that important? Although we're up in applications and although we're up in the number of students we accepted, we're running below last year on offers accepted— students who have committed— because they're waiting for the financial aid package to make a final decision.”

Norm Bedford, who leads VCU’s Student Financial Services says they have received 28,500 FAFSAs as of last week but in a normal year would expect to have information on about 32,500 students, a difference of 14 percent. Other schools in the state are down an average of 18 percent and nationwide FAFSA submissions are down as much as 28 percent.

“We've all followed the issues nationally, and this is not a blame game. We all know where the problems originated,” Rector Todd Haymore told Beford before asking if his office is doing everything it can to help students given the circumstances. “That's the most important thing, I think. This was something that was far beyond our control. We're reacting to and being as proactive as we can possibly be.”

Although schools are finally starting to get financial aid award letters to students, many issues remain. In a notice even after schools began receiving data, the Department of Education admitted upwards of 30 percent of FAFSAs already submitted will need to be reprocessed due to errors.

The National Association of Financial Aid Administrators advises students to stay in contact with their school’s financial aid office throughout the process to ensure the information reached the school and without errors.

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