State universities dealing with delays in FAFSA information being released

DES MOINES — The updates to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA process delayed the normal opening of applications and is holding up the aid awards.

UNI financial aid director Tim Bakula says all three state schools had financial aid offers out to students last year by mid-February. This year some students weren’t even able to get their FAFSA completed right after the process opened. “I myself am a parent of a high school senior. I attempted to log in on January first and was met with outages that basically informed me that the FAFSA would only be open for several hours a day,” he says. “And that lasted for potentially up to the first week of January, with wider expanses of time being available as the month of January wore on.”

Bakula says the universities should be seeing the results in the next couple of weeks. “The massaging out of the Department of Education indicates that the first half of March is when all colleges nationwide would be receiving their first batch of institutional student information records or FAFSA results there,” Bakula says. He says they hope to begin awarding financial aid around the middle of April, which he says will impact students. “It presents from a family’s perspective, a much more condensed timeline to make decisions on which colleges to attend, especially for those students that were waiting on awards to ensure that the school they were selecting was accessible and affordable for them from a financial standpoint,” Bakula says.

University of Iowa financial aid director Brenda Buzynski says the colleges and universities have been the guinea pigs for the upgraded system.  “They’ve had limited time for testing. And bottom line, what’s happening is that schools, we at the universities basically are ending up being their testers,” she says. Buzynski says they have learned to plan and program for the unknown.  “We’ve had very little concise information, and there’s been changes to just about everything midstream,” Buzynski says. Undergraduates students receive 67 percent of the student financial aid at the UI, ISU and UNI. In 2223, 41% of the regent’s undergraduate financial aid came from the federal government, 41% from the regents institutions, 18 % from private organizations and 1% from the State of Iowa.

Buzynski and Bakula made their comments in a report during last week’s Board of Regents meeting.