Students in Eden Prairie and across the U.S. heading to college this fall are encouraged to fill out the newly released and significantly overhauled Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). However, they may want to wait a few weeks, while the new system works out initial technical issues.
Filling out the FAFSA is important because it helps students determine if they qualify for federal aid with their post-secondary education, including grants, low-interest loans, and federal work-study programs. The FAFSA can also help students determine if they qualify for state aid as well as aid from academic institutions.
The good news is that the FAFSA, long criticized for being complicated and time-consuming, is now designed to be shorter and simpler. The new iteration is estimated to take some applicants as little as 10 minutes to complete.
The 2024-25 FAFSA also expands eligibility for federal student aid. Around 610,000 new students from low-income backgrounds will be eligible to receive Federal Pell Grants due to updates to student aid calculations.
All students are encouraged to fill out the FAFSA, regardless of their income level.
FAFSA launch was already delayed, from Oct. 1 to Jan. 1
Normally, the FAFSA form is available on Oct. 1, but this year, due to Congress requiring a new, simpler form, its availability was extended to Jan. 1, 2024.
However, even though the form technically launched last weekend, Federal Student Aid (FSA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Education, has advised students to wait until late January or early February to try filling it out.
Currently in a soft launch phase, the online FAFSA is only sporadically available and is experiencing some hiccups.
In a statement on Dec. 31, FSA said, “Leading up to and during the soft launch, we uncovered some minor issues affecting users at various points in the application process, which is to be expected with the launch of a major new website. We are addressing these issues concurrently and will continue to monitor for additional issues users may encounter while we conduct the soft launch.”
FSA’s website said on Jan. 2 that the FAFSA “will be available for short periods of time while we monitor site performance and form functionality. We will initiate pauses for site maintenance and to make technical updates as needed to provide you with a better experience. … If your form is unavailable when you or your family members try to access it, please try again later.”
The delay has raised concerns among some students who worry that they will be too late to apply for aid.
However, according to the FSA’s Dec. 31 statement, “Students and families will have ample time to complete the 2024-25 FAFSA, and do not need to rush to fill out the form immediately when the soft launch period opens.”
FSA said that students who do succeed in submitting a form during the soft launch period will have their information saved, and will not need to resubmit the form or any related information at a later date. However, full processing of FAFSA forms will not start until late January.
Meanwhile, FSA encouraged students to review all application deadlines and processes for their state as well as the colleges and career schools to which they applied, as these items may have changed for the 2024-25 application cycle.
Students from Minnesota who were previously eligible to transfer their FAFSA information directly into their state application must be aware that they will not see any information or links to transfer their FAFSA data.
Federal Student Aid recommends that students and families visit the StudentAid.gov website to learn more. The site will be updated to include basic information about the soft launch and what students and families can anticipate.
Learn more at free virtual events
For students and families who want to learn more about filling out the new FAFSA form, several free virtual events about college and financial aid webinars are being offered by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and the Minnesota Department of Education.
Like similar sessions held in October, Ready, Set, FAFSA! virtual events will last approximately one hour, with a short presentation from financial aid experts and live Q&A in the chat. Interpreters will be available in Spanish, Hmong and Somali.
Attendees can register for several different events. Students who register and attend these sessions will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 scholarship.
Upcoming Ready, Set, FAFSA! events include:
- Jan. 9 at 7 p.m.: Creating your Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID)
- Jan. 16 at 7 p.m.: Applying for Financial Aid: FAFSA
- Jan. 23 at 7 p.m.: Applying for Financial Aid: MN Dream Act
- Jan. 30 at 7 p.m.: Understanding Your Offer Letter
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