Struggling with the FAFSA college aid form? Don’t give up

Applying to college and navigating the financial aid process is never easy, especially for first-generation students. But this year has been particularly difficult due to problems with the rollout of the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

As the leader of an organization that ensures California students get the financial aid that will allow them to achieve their college dreams, I am deeply concerned that so many students and families have having difficulty finalizing their application. California is experiment a steep drop in requests for aid from last year, second only to Tennessee’s in early March. The temperature reported year-over-year, the number of Los Angeles area high school students completing their applications saw a huge year-over-year decline.

The problem has been particularly acute for about 100,000 California student applicants whose parent or spouse does not have a Social Security number, which is common among families that include relatively recent immigrants. For several months, it was impossible for these families to complete their files. The U.S. Department of Education announced a solution for them last month, but the online application remains difficult to navigate and some families still cannot apply.

It’s important for California families to know that other solutions are being developed to help them get all the financial assistance they deserve, including an extension of the financial aid deadline to May 2nd. Resources are available to help them complete their application over the coming month.

For students and families still struggling with seeking help, I have three key messages:

Persevere. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid remains the only way to access the largest sources of federal aid to help pay for college, and higher education institutions use the FAFSA to determine student eligibility. students for state aid and academic aid. The U.S. Department of Education has worked to resolve issues that prevented many families from completing their applications. So if you haven’t yet filled out your form, Do it nowand remember that students and parents must complete the relevant sections.

Complete the California Dream Act application if you are eligible. THE application is available to undocumented students, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, those with Temporary Protected Status, and others. This can open the door to additional financial aid resources to further reduce the cost of college.

Ask for help. Many resources are available for students and families who are experiencing issues with their application, including:

  • The financial aid offices of the colleges you are applying to. If you encounter any problems or your application has been delayed, let the colleges know.
  • Your high school counselors, teachers, and college access organizations such as mine.
  • Free Money for college California Student Aid Commission webinars, which provide financial aid experts to answer questions about financial aid. Or watch one of the Cash for College Commission’s pre-recorded shows videos.
  • Tools for students and families like that of the commission Chatbot Cali and uAspire user manual videos.
  • Federal government student aid Help Center.

In the coming months, the Department for Education will receive plenty of advice on how to ensure a much smoother and easier process next year. When the application works properly, it streamlines the financial aid process and direct transfers of tax information from the IRS to the form have improved. This gives us hope that the application experience will be better next year and beyond.

However, at this time, we encourage students and families to remain focused on pursuing their college dreams. The baccalaureate remains the safest path to higher incomes and greater economic mobility, particularly for students from low-income families. Financial aid is available, you have earned it, and to the extent you are eligible, I am confident you will receive it. You might just need a little more time and help to get it this year.

Jaclyn Piñero is the Executive Director of uAspire, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving economic mobility for underrepresented students.

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