Editor’s note: This weekly update from the government relations office at the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) provides the latest on what’s happening in Washington and how AACC is advancing policies to support community colleges and students. Send questions, feedback and more to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
On December 30, the Department of Education (ED) officially launched the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2024-25 award year. The FAFSA Simplification Act, passed in December 2020, required ED to simplify and modernize the FAFSA form and overhaul the needs analysis measure, now called the Student Aid Index (SAI). While the FAFSA is typically released in October, delays associated with implementing the law delayed the form’s release until late December.
While many students and families have been anxiously awaiting the release of the form, the Department is cautioning users to be patient during the initial “soft launch” period. Users can expect to encounter periods where the form will be offline for maintenance, waiting rooms to control site volume, and bugs and errors in the user experience that ED is working to correct in real time. More information on site maintenance and bug fixes can be found on the Office of Federal Student Aid’s (FSA) website.
Additional delays and challenges are expected for colleges waiting to receive students’ information from FSA. ED announced an initial delay in the processing of Institutional Student Information Records (ISIRs). Colleges can expect to receive these files at least a month after students submit their FAFSA. However, this delay should only apply to students who file during the soft launch period. It is also not yet known how FSA will address an error to the inflation adjustment for the SAI’s income protection allowance.
AACC is carefully monitoring the rollout of the new FAFSA and will continue to update its member colleges on new developments.
Next week, ED will kick off a set of negotiated rulemaking sessions on Title IV program integrity and quality issues, including accreditation, state authorization, distance education, return of Title IV funds, cash management, and TRIO eligibility. The rulemaking sessions will take place on January 8-11, February 5-8 and March 4-7, with the TRIO subcommittee convening on January 12.
Public two-year colleges will be represented by Jo Alice Blondin of Clark State College and Michael Cioce of Rowan College at Burlington County. JoEllen Price of San Jacinto College will serve as a negotiator representing financial aid administrators. More information on negotiators, issue papers, and registration information is available on the Department’s Negotiated Rulemaking webpage.