January 25, 2024
Over two dozen Republican lawmakers are urging a government watchdog to investigate the U.S. Department of Education’s rollout of the updated Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
The Education Department launched the simplified FAFSA on Dec. 30, just two days before its congressionally dictated deadline. But technical difficulties and changing aid formulas have led politicians and higher ed leaders alike to worry about further delays.
In a Wednesday letter to the head of the U.S. Government Accountability Office, lawmakers — led by North Carolina’s Rep. Virginia Foxx and Louisiana’s Sen. Bill Cassidy — requested the office look into what challenges students and institutions encountered during the rollout and what the Education Department is doing to prevent the issues from carrying over into the next cycle.
Lawmakers intended for the simplified FAFSA to to be a reprieve from the original form, which had over 100 questions and caused frustration among students and their families. The new form only has a few dozen questions.
But when the Education Department unveiled the update in December, it branded the reveal as a soft launch and the form was initially available to the public in short intervals.
The FAFSA usually goes live at the start of October, and the delayed release has truncated the timeline for colleges to make financial aid offers. This challenge will be exacerbated, as the agency said it wouldn’t send applicant data to colleges until late January.