Given that over 180 schools offer Early Decision and over 300 offer Early Action, this is top of mind moving into the fall
application season. While many of these colleges require the CSS Profile and can collect information earlier to award institutional aid and estimate federal aid, without a processed FAFSA, they cannot confirm the full award amount. For colleges that only require the FAFSA, it will be impossible to process a finalized financial aid offer for family consideration.
Matt sees one possibility: colleges delaying the release of Early Decision news until January when FAFSA processing is completed with a potential side effect of further increasing applications. Another possibility may be ED acceptances with provisional aid packages based
on estimated federal aid with the option to decline once the final financial aid offer is provided. As Matt puts it, “Essentially, the binding nature of ED is broken even more, and the rise in applications only continues as families try to protect themselves from the unknown of future educational costs.”
This will put a lot of work and pressure on counselors and students to track multiple application cycles along with monitoring their financial aid packages. Ultimately, it could lead to higher-need students sitting out Early Decision and forcing them to apply to more colleges in Regular Decision.
How will colleges with relatively early financial aid deadlines for Regular Decision or Early Action admissions adjust?
Financial aid deadlines for Early Action can range from November through January, and many schools require financial applications for Regular Decision in early January. These dates may no longer be realistic, especially if FAFSA isn’t available until later December. Matt points out that overworked and understaffed
financial aid offices will be under more stress with repackaging and renegotiating in a very compressed timeframe, particularly with the changes in the federal aid formula.
Will more colleges adopt the CSS
Profile because of the FAFSA delay and changes?
The new FAFSA collects less information, and the formula to calculate a family’s ability to pay, now termed Student Aid Index, has significant alterations, including no longer accounting for the number of children in college. These changes, along with the delayed launch, may drive more colleges to adopt the CSS Profile to get more detailed and timely information.
College Board has recently confirmed that they will still release the CSS Profile on October 1st. They had previously announced the launch of a “lighter, shorter” version for schools that may no longer want to rely solely on FAFSA data. Other colleges may create their own aid application forms for applicants to fill out, adding another step in an already complicated process.
How will Questbridge and other CBOs that use FAFSA data as a qualifier for participation measure students’ financial situations?
Matt has noted that CBOs currently using the FAFSA will have to create a separate financial aid application to determine program eligibility, especially for early application cycles. One option may be to use the new income-based Pell eligibility tables and FAFSA SAI calculators to qualify students for their program. Many CBOs work with families throughout the fall to fill out the FAFSA and college applicants. The delay will push this important work into January and February, well after many application and financial aid deadlines.
What is the overall impact of this delay on students that already face challenges to FAFSA completion?
While FAFSA simplification is meant to increase access and completion for more students, this delay could have the opposite effect. There are also fundamental changes to the application process itself that could create more barriers which I’ll cover in an upcoming post.
What other questions should the college counseling community be considering? Please raise your questions and concerns as we chart this new territory and get you answers as soon as they are available.
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