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The Student News Site of Roswell High School

The Sting

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The Sting

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FAFSA Changes Cause More Stress Than Ease

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(Credit: Jennifer Lee)

As seniors trekked through the trenches of college applications and keeping up with classes, they waited with bated breath to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The form is the most important step if a student wants to receive financial aid from the federal government for college. Seniors and college students could previously start filling it out on Oct. 1, but the form didn’t open until Dec. 31 for the 2024-2025 application.

The delay was due to the implementation of the final changes from the FAFSA Simplification Act, which was passed in December 2020. A large change involves the IRL Direct Data Exchange (DDX) replacing the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. Instead of additional questions, the IRS can directly give federal tax information to the Education Department after each party consents. Now, students only need to answer a maximum of 46 questions instead of the original 108.

The new version is meant to make the process easier for students and guardians. However, there are a multitude of issues that must be addressed before the next application window opens. While my sister and I enjoyed the abbreviated version, many aspects made the process more stressful than necessary. For one, the 2020 FAFSA Simplification Act eliminates the factor of siblings in one’s household out of the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Families question how much more they’ll need to pay than they might’ve had in previous years, including my own. If such a change is bothersome to my household, then I cannot imagine how disruptive it is to families with three or more children they hope to send to college.

Regardless of one’s opinion on the changes, there is still much to be reviewed in the new form.  NPR reported that the Education Department did not adjust the aid formula for inflation. The new formula is meant to qualify students for more aid, but it is yet another instance of the intended positive changes backfiring on students. Not accounting for inflation may grant families significantly less aid than they qualify for.

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Outside of these elements, the process wasn’t smooth. Errors are to be expected with such major changes, but one would expect less considering the opening date was pushed back. Before my sister could check her answers, the form was immediately sent after our mother signed her portion. The application is not meant to go through until both parties sign their parts. My sister cannot even correct any errors on the form until the processing takes place, which is considerably delayed.

The information is supposed to be dispatched to the student’s selected colleges by the end of January, yet the Education Department announced that schools will not receive applications until early March. If disagreements over certain changes weren’t enough as is, colleges now have less time to issue financial aid offers. Then leaving students with less time to properly analyze them.

The overreaching effects are worrisome to many seniors. Some may not want to make a rash decision despite the smaller timeframe they have to fully consider financial options. On the other hand, many may feel pressured to make a choice that isn’t right for them. It is vexing that students, especially those from lower-income backgrounds, must be just as concerned about financial aid than they would if they had to fill out the old form.

I respect that the changes are meant to provide students with more money and less work. Nonetheless, I can’t help but wish that the new FAFSA hadn’t been implemented for another year if the new form is doing the opposite of what it intended. Future rounds of this form will likely run smoother, but officials must revise the application prior to them.

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About the Contributor
Jennifer Lee
Jennifer Lee, Opinion Editor
Jennifer Lee is a senior at Roswell and became Opinion Editor in her second year on staff. When she is not writing, she enjoys having her nose in a book, annoying her cats, and listening to music. She plans on majoring in English when she heads off in the fall.

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