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FAFSA delays could impact Denver students’ college selections this year

The opening day for the free application for FAFSA will no longer be Oct. 1, but will instead fall sometime in December this year
FAFSA changes could make college out of reach for some families
Posted at 5:41 PM, Sep 29, 2023

DENVER — Delays in the Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) program this year could impact all high school students looking to get into college next year, including those in Colorado.

That's because the opening day for the free application for FAFSA will no longer be Oct. 1, but will instead fall sometime in December this year, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

“This year, the FAFSA is undergoing a major revisions, the first major overhaul since the 1990s. And as a result, federal student aid has been doing a lot of work to change the form and the process for parents and students to contribute information and they're also changing the way that the forum connects to tax information," said Natasha Garfield, the director of scholarships at the Denver Scholarship Foundation. "As a result of all of that work, the launch of the form is delayed this year. So it's scheduled to open sometime in December, but the date hasn't been set yet."

The Denver Scholarship Foundation in a nonprofit that helps students navigate financial aid and scholarships.

“One of the main challenges that it (the delay) presents is that typically, we provide a lot of support to students and families in the fall to get them in a good position to receive those award packages early and help them with the decision making process. And right now, we're all just sort of in a holding pattern," Garfield said. "We can't get our school-based workshops for financial aid help scheduled, we can't really build out our trainings for staff and partners, because we're waiting for all of the information to be finalized by the U.S. Department of Education."

Garfield said this could also impact Denver Public Schools high school students.

FAFSA delays could impact Denver students’ college selections this year

“Twelth graders need to be completing the FAFSA or the Colorado equivalent CAFSA as they're making decisions about what their post-secondary life is going to look like. And so it's important that this service, our support, and the ability to get the FAFSA or CAFSA done is available for all students,” Garfield said. “I think that our colleges and universities will work very hard to make sure that students have the funds and are secure in their financial aid packages for the '24-'25 school year. I think where there may be some delay is students finding out how much money the college would be able to offer them.”

University of Colorado Denver Sophomore Daniel Ibarra, who has received financial planning help from the Denver Scholarship Foundation, said her decision on where to attend college was influenced by the financial aid available.

“So when I hear there's delays, I'm kind of just like, red sirens are going off in my head, because it means that I don't know if I'm going to come back, or if I'm financially capable of coming back for another year, or if I have to start saving now and just like, get that money somehow,” Ibarra said. “I think that that's why it's important that we have organizations like Denver Scholarship Foundation, that have really reassured me that although there is a delay, I'm going to be okay.”

Ibarra recalls trying to fill-out the FAFSA for the first time.

“Being a first generation student, it wasn't a matter of if I wanted to go to college, because it was always kind of a set in stone thing that I was supposed to go to college, and I was going to go to college. So it was a matter of, 'which college can I afford?' So when filling out the FAFSA, it was extremely confusing and extremely frustrating," Ibarra said. "And it's supposed to be like a thing that you sit down with your mom or your dad or both your parents and fill out. But my parents didn't understand what it was asking. There are like 50, 60 questions. And it's just like, it's a tedious process. And I went to Denver Scholarship Foundation, and we both sat down, me and my mother, and they helped us fill it out."

Ibarra said she loves CU Denver and wants to continue her education there, but needs her FAFSA results immediately to determine if she’s able to.