Due to the disastrous rollout of the new FAFSA, most new and continuing students still don’t know how much college will cost them next year. This makes it even harder than usual for high school seniors to decide where, or if, to enroll by the pending deadlines. FAFSA submissions have declined as a result, but not equally across all demographics. There has a been a greater decline among students who need aid the most — those in low-income areas and among minority students.

Our last post was a summary of the ongoing FAFSA crisis from a macro perspective, focusing on the role of the U.S. Education Department (ED) and other high-level actors who are collectively responsible for the failed rollout. This post focuses at a micro level on the impact of the failed rollout on individual students participating in the 2024-25 financial aid cycle.  As noted in our last post, the new FAFSA’s growing pains this year… “will come at the cost of a college education for millions of students in the high school class of 2024 and others.” 

 Students and Parents Without Social Security Numbers:

 In addition to the cascade of problems flowing from the lateness of the FAFSA this year, other faults were identified in the FAFSA process soon after its release in January. One affected applicants with no Social Security Number (SSN) for themselves or a parent. This glitch caused their FAFSA’s to be rejected by the ED.

Ramon Montejo García, a 17-year-old senior at the Northeast Denver Leadership Academy in Colorado, has been accepted to his first-choice school, Wheaton College in Massachusetts. But with a full cost of attendance of $80,000 per year, Montejo García will need Federal financial aid to bring the cost down. However, he hasn’t been able to submit a FASFA yet. When he tries to do so, his application is rejected by the ED because neither of his parents has a SSN, even though rule changes made pursuant to the FAFSA Simplification Act of 2020 have eliminated the requirement that students and parents have an SSN. Montejo Garcia says that without aid he will attend an in-state school. (CNBC – April 19)

Angel Diaz, 20, is finishing his sophomore year at the University of Maryland, where he has been working toward a degree in economics.  His mother cleans houses and his father is in construction. Neither has an SSN. He is the first member of his family to attend college.

Angad Bedi, 20, a sophomore at the University of Maryland majoring in data analytics, has also wrongfully been denied financial aid because his mother doesn’t have an SSN. He too is the first person in his family to attend college.

Angel and Angad are from low-income families and neither can afford to attend college without the Federal student aid they have received for the past two years. As of late April, both are planning to work over the summer and longer if necessary while hoping that the FAFSA mess works itself out soon. (Washington Post – April 18)

Simplified Form Takes Longer:

A financial aid consultant with many years of experience reported that the ED’s reduction in FAFSA questions from the old 108 to the new 38 (actually 50) has increased the amount of time he needs to complete a FAFSA for a family from 5 to 7 minutes for the old version to 17 to 21 for the new one. He says that “Colleges are telling parents to contact their Federal representative. Meanwhile, my students and parents are suffering from this colossal mistake.”

He also reported that he had received his first call from a parent who informed him that their student will be taking a Gap Year because the college their student prefers will not issue an Award Letter until after June. Another of his students, a college senior, has contacted the financial aid office at this college and was told they have received only a few  Institutional Student Information Records (ISIR’s) from the ED and most of the ones that they did receive were incorrect. He said it’s critical for this student because he had a Student Aid Index (SAI) of zero and he has received the full Pell Grant for the last 3 years.

Accepted Offer and Paid Deposit But Affordability in Doubt:

  Chase Cunningham, 17, will graduate from high school in May but may not know where he’s going to college by then. Cunningham paid the nonrefundable deposit for Morehouse College, a historically Black, all-male school in Atlanta, because it’s his first choice. Cunningham was accepted to five other colleges but hasn’t received any Award Letters. Morehouse, a private school, could end up being the most expensive depending on what scholarships and grants he will receive. Several of his options are public, in-state schools, but he doesn’t know the net cost of attendance at them either.

Cunningham’s mother, Lisa Wilson, said she wishes she could be getting ready to celebrate her son’s graduation rather than worrying about how much college will cost next year. “We just have no idea what the cost will be. We’re at a place where we’re just relying on faith.” Wilson said. (CNN – April 13).

No College Scholarships Awarded Without FAFSA Data:

Taylor Browne-Fandal received some upsetting news recently. An email from Spelman College explained that it is unable to complete the evaluation of applicants for its highly desirable Bonner Scholar Program “…due to the ongoing delays with the release of accurate FAFSA information by the U.S. Department of Education.” Browne-Fandal applied last winter for the scholarship, which is given to students who demonstrate academic excellence and a commitment to service. The selection process includes an assessment of an applicant’s financial need as determined by the FAFSA. Students who enroll at Spelman, the email said, could apply for the Bonner program again in the future, but no scholarships would be given this fall due to the lack of FAFSA data. This demonstrates that the FAFSA issue has not only delayed Federal financial aid but is also constraining many of the institutional scholarships that colleges award. (The Chronicle of Higher Education – April 17).

Students Unable to Make Changes to FAFSA:

 Another problem associated with the new FAFSA is that changes have not been allowed after submission. The ED promises that this will soon be fixed, but until it is students will continue to be thwarted in their efforts to make critical changes. About 16% of FAFSA’s needed a correction as of April 9, according to the ED.

Taylor Smith, 24, submitted her FAFSA in January. Two colleges that Smith added to her list after submitting her FAFSA won’t receive her FAFSA information before their enrollment deadlines expire because she can’t add them to her list. To Smith, a community college student, the two colleges have been removed from consideration because she won’t know their net cost of attendance before needing to decide where to enroll. (CNN April 15)

Tayler Montes wasted no time filling out her FAFSA for college. The senior in high school in  in Camden, New Jersey, plans to be the first person in her family to pursue a college degree. She got started on the FAFSA shortly after its December 30 online debut, but she was confused by a question on the form, phrased as a double negative. She said, “I couldn’t go back in to fix it, even though on the website it says that I should theoretically be able to edit it.” She’s tried calling the Federal Student Aid hotline for help to no avail. “The lines are busy, so I’ve never gotten through.” (PBS – March 18)

Inability to Enroll in the Best-Fit College:

 The delay in the FAFSA motivated all UC and CSU campuses to push back their Intent to Register deadline to May 15. Despite the 15-day extension, many students like Kamila Juarez report that they are having difficulty in making a decision without knowledge of  the amount of their financial aid package for the 2024-25 academic year. On March 25, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill extending the State of California’s financial aid deadline to give students more time to apply for state aid programs.

Waiting for Federal financial aid from UC and CSU campuses has been worrisome for Kamila Juarez, a high school senior at Grace Davis High School in Modesto. The prolonged timeline of the process has added to her distress. Juarez says, “It’s stressful because I know that when I do know how much aid I get, it’s going to be pretty fast, so knowing that I have all this waiting time, I can’t really do much about it besides apply for scholarships and wait to hear back from them”.

Juarez said she has received scholarships from Sonoma State University and California State University at Monterey Bay but is waiting to know what financial aid she’ll get from all of the schools before making her decision. “My biggest factor is financial aid” Juarez said.

Finean Hunter-Kenney, a senior from Lowell High School in San Francisco, said the FAFSA delay has heavily influenced his decision on the college at which to enroll.. “I can’t make any decision on where to go to college without all the financial info. Right now I’m in the process of committing to Chapman University to play baseball, but I can’t make that decision final until I see how much FAFSA will pay for, because the tuition is really expensive.” He said he wants to say yes to Chapman because the deadline is May 1, but he can’t accept the offer until FAFSA releases financial aid information. There is an upper limit to the net cost of college that he can afford.

For Isabella Gentile, a communication studies major at Pasadena City College, financial aid was one of the main reasons she decided to focus her transfer applications on in-state public colleges, thus avoiding the financial uncertainty that can come with private or out-of-state schools. “I know I would receive more money from my grant if I attended a UC school versus if I attended a private school, which impacted my decision to not apply to somewhere like USC”. Gentile said. Yet, due to the FAFSA delay, she has been unable to eliminate uncertainty in any case. (EdSource – March 27)


As previously noted, an indication of the severity of the FAFSA crisis is the survey of students being conducted by the New York Times on April 3. The introduction to the survey includes the following statement:

“Applying for financial aid was supposed to get easier with the new version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which millions of families and thousands of schools rely on to determine how students will pay for college in America. But for months, they have had to navigate a bureaucratic mess caused by severe delays and glitches with the new application. As colleges and universities start to release their admissions decisions, many students are in limbo, waiting to hear how much financial aid they will receive before committing to a school. We want to hear from readers about how issues with the new FAFSA system have shaped their decisions around attending college.”

Below are questions being asked by the Times of high school graduates this spring:

  • Are you considering or going to a school that is not your top choice because of uncertainties around your financial situation?
  •  Are you altogether rethinking going to college?
  • What changes have you had to make as you await your financial aid package?

We will report the results of this survey when they are available.