AUSTIN, Texas, Nov. 30, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- A new survey shows that more than half (52%) of respondents at US higher education institutions have not yet started to prepare for the significant changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that will go into effect in the 2024-25 school year. All college students seeking federal financial aid in the US fill out the application. The study from Oracle and the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) found that administrators are anxious about how to handle major modifications in the financial aid processes and are unsure of the Department of Education's support in making these adjustments.
Forty-one percent of respondents are slightly or not confident that the Department of Education can provide timely, helpful guidance to help them navigate the changes. As a result, many are turning to technology and solution providers to adjust. Forty percent of respondents are completely or fairly confident in their financial aid management software provider's ability to adapt to the new requirements.
"Following the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, financial aid offices across the country are gearing up for significant federal methodology and FAFSA changes that will require adjustments to longstanding practices and processes," said NASFAA President and CEO Justin Draeger. "As this survey makes clear, there is both optimism and trepidation about our collective ability to make these changes in a way that facilitates a smooth transition for schools and students. We look forward to working with our software provider partners and the Department of Education on these changes in the coming months to ensure we have the technical details, training, and resources to implement these exciting changes seamlessly."
The survey was distributed to primary contacts at NASFAA member institutions in September 2021 and received 435 responses. The survey asked respondents about their institution's preparations for the implementation of the Consolidated Appropriations Act's (CAA) FAFSA changes coming soon. Dive deeper into the findings at: https://www.nasfaa.org/FAA_Surveys
Preparations off to a slow start: When asked how their institution is currently preparing for the Federal Methodology (FM) FAFSA changes authorized by the Consolidated Appropriations Act:
52% of respondents said their institution has not yet begun preparations. That number grew to 59% among community college administrators.
31% are assessing how current practices will change.
30% have begun educating staff on federal methodology changes.
15% have started planning with higher administration within their institution (e.g., president, provost, vice president, etc.)
With change comes challenges: When considering what aspects of the Consolidated Appropriations Act they expect to be most taxing:
74% of respondents cited the shift from the Estimated Family Contribution to Student Aid Index as their biggest concern and challenge.
61% anticipated challenges with the new Pell eligibility formula.
35% expressed concern about the simplified Federal Methodology (e.g., elimination of FAFSA questions and data elements in the formula).
Institutions are uncertain of the Department of Education's ability to support: When asked how confident they were in the implementation of certain changes and how the Department of Education would support the transition:
24% of respondents said they are completely or fairly confident—with another 41% only slightly or not at all confident—in the department's release of timely, helpful guidance.
20% are completely or fairly confident—with another 50% only slightly or not at all confident—in the department's ability to release of helpful technical specifications.
23% are completely or fairly confident—with another 48% only slightly or not at all confident—in the department's ability to provide timely training opportunities.
Administrators are looking within and turning to tech providers: Administrators were generally more confident in themselves and their software providers to implement changes smoothly:
40% of respondents were completely or fairly confident in software providers' ability to adapt to the policy changes.
48% of respondents were fairly confident or completely confident that their financial aid management solution vendor will be able to keep up with the rapid rate of change to financial aid processes.
68% of respondents were completely confident or fairly confident in their institution's ability to navigate the change.
Institutions are seeking more support from software vendors: When asked how financial aid management solution providers can help institutions feel more confident about their ability to implement changes:
69% of respondents want earlier availability of new functionality.
61% want more detailed documentation.
54% want more effective training.
"The need for financial aid reform has never been more pressing, with schools and students still grappling with the economic impacts of the pandemic," said Vivian Wong, group vice president of higher education development, Oracle. "While these provisions are an important first step in expanding access to education, institutions can't enact this change alone—they need the right systems and support in place. Teamwork between the Department of Education, NASFAA, software providers, and institutions will be key to ensure that schools and students are set up for success."