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The Student News Organization for Rutherford B. Hayes High School

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FAFSA changes shake up college plans

The+new+2024-25+FAFSA+form+has+posed+some+issues+for+those+currently+undergoing+the+college+search+process.
Grace Metz
The new 2024-25 FAFSA form has posed some issues for those currently undergoing the college search process.

In the new year, many are celebrating fresh starts and renewed opportunities.
But for some high school seniors, the beginning of the year is filled with fast approaching deadlines for scholarships and due dates for regular decision applications.
Now, due to the FAFSA Simplification Act of 2020, seniors have another task on their minds: completing the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which would originally be done in late October, whose launch date was pushed back by more than two months.
However, the FAFSA’s initial soft launch was plagued with outages, errors and even a 1.8 billion dollar miscalculation.
These issues will cause many seniors to not receive their financial aid packages until the beginning of April at the earliest, delaying college decisions indefinitely.
“There have been lots of glitches with the FAFSA, taking people hours to finally get in, but once they’re in I’ve been told it’s pretty quick, like 10-15 minutes,” college and career counselor Jennifer Pollard said. “The education department has recalculated the FAFSA’s equation for how much people should be getting. They overestimated what families can contribute … So, they are working to correct that which means that colleges are not going to get information as quickly as they’ve been promised, which was the end of January.”
Colleges, like Otterbein University, a private institution located in Westerville, Ohio, use students’ information from the FAFSA to determine individual financial aid packages.
“Students that file the FAFSA typically are eligible for federal loans,” said Kirsten Crotte, Director of Enrollment and Financial Aid at Otterbein. “But in addition to that, the universities that students are applying to may have their own financial aid policies, and they may be interested in providing aid to help that student based on FAFSA information. It’s very important that you [file the FAFSA] to allow schools to put their best foot forward and show you what aid you’re eligible for.”
The cost of college is often a large factor in determining where a student will attend and the FAFSA’s late release date will not help make that decision any easier.
“Families would typically be receiving financial aid awards by now to be able to compare costs between schools, but we don’t have any data yet,” Crotte said. “That’s kind of had to change our strategy in communicating with families, to keep them engaged with the university, talking about affordability, even though we aren’t able to present them with a financial aid award yet. Behind the scenes, we are trying to ensure that everything is set up to accommodate for all these changes so that we can hopefully get things out the door as quickly as possible once we do have information.”
The new FAFSA’s unsteady rollout wasn’t without reason; the new form will have significantly less questions than its predecessor, and will expand the requirements to be eligible for a federal Pell grant, overall allowing more students access to financial aid.
Yet for first generation college students, this process, along with other financial aid applications, may still pose some issues.
“It was a struggle because neither of my parents went to college,” senior Natalia Hisle said. “I’m also an only child, so I had to fill it out for them. With the CSS Profile, which is separate from FAFSA, it required me to call my dad up and be like, ‘Hey, can you fill this out?’ He was struggling, so we had four W-2s last year and I had to go through all this terrible paperwork.”
But students may not be alone in figuring out this year’s financial aid system.
“There are a couple FAFSA help nights at OSU-Marion. You don’t have to go to OSU, they’re serving anybody who wants to go up there and get help,” Pollard said.
Aside from the FAFSA, independent scholarships are also available through March or later, with local organizations including the Delaware County Foundation or the Columbus Foundation providing opportunities with less competition than larger scholarship websites like Bold or Fastweb.
Despite the delays, students will still be able to receive financial aid and continue their education as normal in the coming months.
“[My parents] realize that college is a lot of money, but they also realize that going into the workforce is probably not the best thing for me, especially because I want to do math and physics,” Hisle said. “My mom always told me that if I [don’t go to college, I would] work twice as long and twice as hard. So if I could go to college, it’d be easier.”

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Grace Metz
Grace Metz, Editor-In-Chief
Grace Metz (she/her) is a senior at Hayes. This is her second year on staff. She is involved with the central Ohio creative writing scene. In her free time, she enjoys reading, listening to music, volunteering in her community, and spending time with friends and family.
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