How bureaucracy destroys dreams for first-generation college students

If you’re a college student or have a child in college, you know that the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) has been revamped. Unfortunately, this overhaul is not without its problems.

The new FAFSA began its “soft” launch on December 30th, instead of launching on October 1st as in previous years. A “soft” launch can be read as a code for “.with all kinds of problems” includes various malfunctions and unannounced scheduled maintenance that made the system inaccessible.

These issues have already led the Department of Education to: present Universities will begin receiving institutional student information records in the first half of March, several months later than usual. Educational institutions need these records to create financial aid packages, such as Pell Grants, for low-income families. Meanwhile, students and their families need time to consider and compare these packages before the decision date (usually her May 1st). As a result, major advocacy and professional organizations recently issued the following statement: call For extension of commitment period.

But in the meantime, not enough attention has been paid to one group of students who are uniquely and dramatically affected by the ongoing FAFSA issue: students whose parents do not have Social Security numbers. These civics students are eligible for federal financial aid like other civics students who meet income eligibility criteria, but they are currently locked out of the FAFSA entirely.

An error occurs when a parent tries to fill out a form message “They are not authorized to act on behalf of the student because they already have the 24-25 FAFSA form.” In other words, not only is there a problem, but students and their families are not aware that the system is causing the student’s inability to file. Instead of a clear message, they are faced with wildly inaccurate and unhelpful error messages that suggest something is wrong with the student. application.

No information available on FAFSA home page Warn students about this issue. Unless advised by a knowledgeable FAFSA navigator, these families have no way of knowing that this is one of several “unresolved issues” regarding this application. She found out on January 4th that parents without Social Security numbers cannot complete her FAFSA. remains unresolved.

As February progresses, I look back on what this issue means to the students I’ve worked with through More Than Bootstraps, the nonprofit I founded to support underrepresented first-generation students. It is explained below.

Janelee (a pseudonym to protect her identity) has worked hard to achieve her goals and put together a competitive college application. However, due to my parents’ immigration status, I am currently unable to complete the FAFSA.

Janely’s top choice schools include: duke universityThe deadline for applicants to file the FAFSA is February 1st, but there are no clear instructions for those who cannot complete the application now.

Jane faces the daunting prospect of having to contact every school she applies to and explain why she can’t meet the FAFSA’s stated deadline.

Meanwhile, state aid for Generie if she chooses to attend a New Jersey institution has also stalled. Many states use data generated by the FAFSA to award state aid and Several The deadline is approaching. For example, Louisiana has a priority deadline of February 1st. Thankfully in New Jersey, Higher Education Student Support Office (HESAA) provides generous aid to low-income students with a late deadline of September 15, 2024. But without an update, it’s unclear how long her application will remain on hold.

This is also a problem for students who continue on to college. That they have at least one financial aid office and a friendly face to contact and ask questions about what to do, including whether or not to file a paper FAFSA for the time being. I hope. But uncertainty definitely leads to unnecessary stress and extra work.

If this issue is finally resolved for parents without Social Security numbers, we estimate that affected students will have less time to complete the FAFSA (much less time than students with citizen parents) All you can do is Students attending university will face the added challenge of having to fill out forms remotely with their families.

Meanwhile, educational institutions, especially cash-strapped public institutions that serve a large proportion of Pell-eligible students, are concerned about the limited time they have to create financial aid packages for students and the impact on enrollment. Of course. Ironically, Federal Student Aid Director Richard Cordray was quoted in the January 30th newspaper. press release Celebrating “How easy and quick it is to fill out and submit the 2024-25 FAFSA form.”

Bureaucracy is imperfect. The FAFSA revamp was expected to be difficult, and unsurprisingly, it met expectations. The new FAFSA should make life easier for all students in the long run, including those whose parents do not have Social Security numbers.

Still, it’s still heartbreaking to see the obstacles students whose parents don’t have Social Security numbers currently face. These young Americans embody the hopes and dreams of their families. Higher education has transformative potential for first-generation college students, their families, and our society.

Intentionally or not, the new FAFSA sent a message to these young people. Your ability to apply for financial aid, and by extension your education and yourself, is not a priority.

Immediately sending a clear message and fixing this problem must be a top priority for the Department of Education. States and other scholarship organizations that use FAFSA data should extend the deadline. And institutions will need to extend commitment deadlines.

These students are being left behind. After this bewildering month, we need to honor their dreams and do better.

Dr. Audrey Fish is a professor of English at New Jersey City University. More than bootstrapuses a near-peer mentoring model supported by scholarships to build a community of underrepresented first-generation students who empower each other to pursue higher education and succeed. This is a non-profit organization that employs.

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