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SPM News Extra: Siouxland college officials say financial aid awards much delayed after FAFSA revision

Klinger-Neal Theater, Postcard, Morningside University Archives
Klinger-Neal Theater, Postcard, Morningside University Archives

The timeline for college financial aid tasks has been greatly pushed back this year, which is causing some apprehension.

As a result, college students throughout the nation and region are receiving a summary of what they can expect in scholarships and financial aid for the 2024-25 school year much later than in past years.

The lateness is happening because a big piece of the financial picture for many students, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, was only first available to be completed three months later than usual.

That delay occurred because of an extensive reworking of the FAFSA form that people fill out online, primarily to shorten and simplify it, as required by a congressional measure in 2020. Karen Wiese, an official from Morningside University in Sioux City, said the streamlining can be shown in the number of FAFSA questions dropping from about 100 to 46.

The first time the reworked FAFSA was able to be accessed came on January 1, rather than the longstanding October 1.

About 18 million families across the nation in recent years have completed FAFSA, to determine their child’s eligibility for student financial aid.

Siouxland colleges are urging students seeking financial aid to submit their FAFSA’s in the range from late February to April 1.

At Morningside, college officials are suggesting students get the FAFSA filled out by February 28, in part because there is a FAFSA incentive grant of $1,000 dollars that Morningside students can receive file by that date. Another reason for that timing is because some grants and scholarships from the State of Iowa (Iowa Financial Aid Application (iowacollegeaid.gov) have a March 1 deadline.

Wiese said her expectation is that Morningside aims to send out award letters by early April. That’s predicated on the U.S. Department of Education meeting the prediction of relaying student FAFSA data to the college by mid-March.

University of South Dakota Financial Aid Director Lindsay Miller said the timeline will be similar at USD.

Wiese said some people are having problems filling out the FAFSA, so some colleges are asking the feds to allow a paper version to be filled out.

A paper FAFSA typically would take a month to get processed, but Wiese said in today's environment it may take even longer to get processed. Unfortunately, students in this situation may miss school, state, and private scholarship deadlines.