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FAFSA frenzy

Federal aid application reform both helps and hurts seniors
The student financial aid process can be an intimidating experience for students and parents alike. Knowing where to start and having steps and/or a plan for tackling the process can make it much easier. Infographic made by Josie Babcock using Canva

As graduation rapidly approaches, students find themselves frantically searching for their next steps. Most plans for students require some sort of financial aid, where a majority of students will turn to the FAFSA for help.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has been a key step in the college application process for decades. The FAFSA is notorious for its large number of questions and tedious, stress-inducing process. The Department of Education announced the reform of the FAFSA in early 2023, postponing the release of the form until Dec. 31 instead of the typical Oct. 1.

“The more user-friendly they make [the FAFSA], the less intimidating it sounds,” Ankeny High School (AHS) counselor Audrey Bell said. “So, we tell anybody who is pursuing any type of post-secondary education or anywhere that charges tuition that it is worth it to fill it out.”

The FAFSA reform has reduced the number of questions from over 100 questions to around 46 questions.

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“I would say [the FAFSA] was relatively easy,” AHS senior Rece Johnson said. “I just kind of sat down with my dad and we went through everything and filled it out. [It took] an hour maybe, not that long.”

A common misconception about the FAFSA is that it will not provide money to students who come from higher-income families. One notable change of the FAFSA is the ability to provide a larger number of students with Federal Pell Grants, money provided for college by the federal government. Despite this change, many students still think that they are unable to receive aid from the federal government.

 “I am probably not [going to receive much aid],” senior Ellen Wieczorek said. “I do not think we are going to get much, if at all anything.”

The FAFSA reform also allows students and families to now link their tax information directly from the IRS, rather than entering it all manually.

“I got sent all of my tax stuff from work so I knew my information easily,” Johnson said. “I did not [have any issues with it].”

Unlike Johnson, however, some students have struggled with uploading tax information due to the reform of the FAFSA. Senior Josiah Goodlett has had difficulty with the tax forms.

“A problem that I am having right now is trying to add my dad as a collaborator so that he can put in taxes and income and it is for some reason being difficult to get him on there,” Goodlett said.

Although the FAFSA reform has its benefits, there have been a number of setbacks. Due to its late release, the FAFSA website has had a number of issues with shutdowns and inconsistency.

“Making the actual profile part was easy, but once I got to filling out the forms, it froze and I could not log in,” Wieczorek said. “So it was pretty difficult overall.”

Despite this issue, many colleges and universities are trying to extend their deadlines for FAFSA submission, applications, and acceptance fee due dates.

“I have received a lot of communication from colleges that say ‘We have extended our priority deadline’, so to like February or March,” Bell said. “I think they are recognizing that people are running into a little bit of a bog-down site.”

Many students depend on the FAFSA for deciding where to attend college based on their amount of aid, however, some students have made their decisions early on.

“I know that I am privileged enough to go where I want to go [to college],” Johnson stated. “I have my heart set on where I want to go.”

Some students, however, are concerned about their financial wellbeing with the FAFSA reform. Wieczorek is concerned with the lack of aid for her family having multiple children attending college.

“My family was taken aback when we realized that they changed the amount of money given to families that had siblings going [to college] at the same time,” Wieczorek said.

Granted that the FAFSA reform has been difficult on students for the 2024-2025 school year, the process intends to return to standard timing for the next school year.

“I am anticipating that it is just this year that it will be a problem, but from what I have heard, the improvements that were made to it were much needed,” Bell said.

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About the Contributor
Josie Babcock
Josie Babcock, Staff Reporter
Josie Babcock is a senior at Ankeny High School. She is involved in marching band, jazz band, National Honors Society, throws for track and field, and dances competitively outside of school. Josie plans to attend the University of Iowa after high school to study english and secondary education. A fun fact about Josie is that she enjoys collecting vinyl records and listening to music in her free time.
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