Federal Student Aid Application overhaul frustrates high school seniors and families

SEATTLE — An overhaul to the Federal Application for Student Aid - or FAFSA - has left many high school seniors and their families frustrated.

Many soon-to-be first-time college students are still waiting on the Department of Education to let them know how much aid they’ll be getting for college.

It’s April, and this is the month when high school seniors typically tour campuses and begin to make final decisions on where they plan to attend college, but that’s been delayed.

“There’s been a lot of uncertainty,” Randy Huynh, a senior at Foster High School, said.

He and his classmate, Marisol Jimenez Garcia told KIRO 7 they thought they’d be more certain about their college futures by now.

“Some of my college admissions were put on hold entirely so I’m waiting on that,” Garcia said.

“Am I going to need to get a part time job while I’m studying there? Is that going to affect my schooling and how is that going to affect costs back at home?” she wondered.

Both students are part of Minds Matter Seattle, a program that helps students prepare for college.

Cheryl Hammond, the director of support programs for Minds Matter Seattle said this year has been extremely stressful for students.

“Earlier this week, I got a WhatsApp message at midnight from one of my seniors going ‘I just got this email and I don’t know what it means and I’m scared,’” Hammond said.

She told KIRO 7 that some students have estimated financial aid offers but those could change.

Hammond said that leaves students wondering if they’ll even be able to afford the colleges they want to attend.

“We’re all frantically reaching out to these colleges saying. ‘can we get an extension on some of these decisions because we have nowhere near enough information for the students to know whether they can make that commitment,’” Hammond said.

In response to the FAFSA problems, universities across the country and in Western Washington have extended their deadlines.

The University of Washington, Seattle University, Western Washington University and the University of Puget Sound have all extended their deadlines to June 1st.

“I hope that it’ll all work out and that hopefully other scholarships will cover the aid that unfortunately the federal government isn’t able to give,” Garcia said.

KIRO 7 also spoke with Jack Wallace, the director of government and lender relations at YRefy, who said families need to make sure they’ve expanded the definition of safety school, not to just include where a student is accepted, but also a school the family can afford.

“If you’re looking at a four-year private list of schools you may want to add an in state or out of state public four-year school. And if you’re looking at a four-year school, you may want to add a community college to that list,” Wallace said.