January 24, 2024
The new year has brought new challenges to higher education, and some recent developments in Washington, DC, have added to your work as a business officer. I want to assure you that NACUBO is here to equip you with news and analysis to respond to these challenges.
We are closely monitoring the Department of Education's rollout of the "Better FAFSA," which is now fully online for students and parents after several months of delays and technical issues. The form was revamped to include fewer questions, with changes to federal formulas meant to expand Pell Grant eligibility. Yesterday, the Department of Education acknowledged a formula error that will need to be corrected before aid is awarded. While these are positive changes, they also may impact aid calculations for institutions in an already compressed timeline.
So far, the form delays have affected the early decision process at some institutions. Financial aid offers may not be finalized on normal timelines and recalculations and adjustments may be required weeks or months later than usual. This would have major implications for students and institutions alike, and we urge you to work closely with your campus colleagues—including your president and/or chancellor—to ensure proactive communication to students and families and consideration of your institution’s reputational risk.
NACUBO urges you to—
- Work closely with enrollment management, admissions, registrars, communications, and financial aid teams. Cross-departmental collaboration will be critical in navigating this award year.
- Work with your lead financial aid administrator to fully understand the importance of the Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR) and the Student Aid Index (SAI).
- Ensure data management and systems support are ready for ISIRs.
- Understand the data you have available to model the institutional aid implications for budget and planning.
- Implement quality control measures in case the delays result in manual aid package calculations.
- Consider shifting your deposit deadline and other due dates, when possible.
- Offer additional financial aid briefings for admitted students and families, and be ready to answer their questions about anomalies in the process this year.
The NACUBO team will continue to monitor this situation closely. We are working with the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), which has created a FAFSA Simplification Web Center with many resources I encourage you to explore.
Please do not hesitate to connect with me in the meantime. Thank you for your continued support of NACUBO.
With Sincere Appreciation,
Kara D. Freeman
President and CEO, NACUBO