College students urged to complete financial aid forms

February 19, 2024

College students urged to complete financial aid forms

Across the nation, students and families are navigating a new free application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which was launched in early January.  The “Better FAFSA” application is shorter, and promises to be a smoother process, because it automatically imports previous year IRS tax information for applicants. However, this new version of FAFSA has been challenging for some students and parents to complete, because of service outages and glitches. This has caused students to pause their efforts to complete the form.  Mason County Promise Zone and the Mason College Access Network urge students who have paused their application, or have not yet started their FAFSA, to complete it as soon as possible.

Typically, after FASFA completion, colleges and universities receive a student’s aid eligibility report.  Historically, a student could begin the FAFSA in October prior to the next year that they plan to attend college, and shortly after completion, colleges would receive a report for that student’s eligibility.  This allowed some students almost half a year to consider college costs and related financial aid.

With the new FAFSA, student aid reports were projected to be available in January 2024.  Recently, however, Federal Student Aid announced that they would not begin sharing student financial aid information with higher education institutions until March, which is two months later than initially projected, and several months later than normal.  Apart from the new application process, the other main reason for this delay is a recalculation of aid eligibility to adjust for recent inflation.  While the adjustment means that students may be eligible for greater amounts of aid, it also means that students who completed their FAFSA may not receive their college financial aid award letters any earlier than May 2024.  Award letters may even arrive later than when a university requires students to commit to attending.  The longer a student delays FAFSA completion, the later their award letters will arrive.

In light of these issues, it is more important than ever that students complete the FAFSA as soon as possible.  Financial Aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis by institutions, so student aid packages are maximized by applying early.  Even without financial aid award letters in-hand, there are several things that folks who have completed their FAFSA can do to prepare for college costs: Students can access “net price calculators” on most college websites, which take 5-10 minutes to fill out, and provide an estimate of tuition, room and board costs, along with potential for income-based financial aid to support attendance.  Students can apply to multiple institutions, so that when award letters arrive, they can compare costs and have options.  Mason County Promise-eligible students can consider the option to start at West Shore Community College, which will alleviate tuition costs for their first year, and up to 72 credits.

The most important thing is that students and parents complete the FAFSA as soon as they can.  Delaying completion could mean less financial aid, and will mean less time to make an informed decision about college costs. FAFSA completion is required for federal financial aid, state-based grants and scholarships, and local scholarships, like the Promise.  To start a FAFSA, visit  To learn more about college decision deadlines across Michigan and real-time updates as colleges adjust for FAFSA report delays for the 2024-25 school year, visit Michigan College Access Network’s data at

To learn more about college access in Mason County, visit and


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