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FAFSA deadlines approaching but school offer letters will likely be delayed

(Photo courtesy - Shutterstock)
(Photo courtesy - Shutterstock)

Students applying to most colleges and universities in Virginia have until March 1 to fill out the federal application for financial aid, known as  FAFSA, if they want to be considered in the priority category. But changes and delays at the federal level are throwing a wrench into the entire process.

This story was reported and written by Radio IQ

Last year, the US Department of Education began rolling out major changes to how students and families fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

"It is the biggest change to the FAFSA in forty years," said Allison Pratt, director of financial aid at Radford University. She said she’s heard from some students who have been able to fill out the application that the FAFSA form is quicker this year.

But the shift to a new system is causing major headaches and delays.

"I just don’t think that they had the time or ability to get it all done to meet the deadlines that we have," said Lee Andes, with the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

Most schools have a deadline of March 1 to fill out the FAFSA, but even if you don’t meet that deadline, Andes advises to still fill out the FAFSA, and contact financial aid directors at schools.

Another thing that’s uncertain is when schools will be able to send students offer letters. That’s because schools have to wait till the federal government tells them which students apply for assistance, said Pratt.

"I think that we all remain optimistic that we’re gonna be able to get something in the hands of students in the month of April, but really don’t have enough information to say that’s even a viable option right now," Pratt said.

Because these offer letters will likely be delayed, Radford, and other schools have pushed back their deadlines for when students have to commit to enrollment, and send in their deposit.

"By giving families more time, then families will have the time to receive everything that they need to receive and then deliberate on all that information," said Mark Owczarski, spokesperson for Virginia Tech.

"We’re asking students to be patient, but persistent," said Andes. "And please get the FAFSA completed. Even if you don’t meet a deadline, still complete a form. Colleges will try to be as flexible as they can."