Waynesburg Univ. & others facing issues relating to FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is an application for students to fill out before each school year, which is then reviewed by one’s college to determine how much financial aid a student may receive, according to Studentaid.gov. 

“FAFSA unlocks all the financial aid doors,” Matthew Stokan, director of financial aid at Waynesburg University, said. “It’s the application for state grant funding, it is also the application used by schools to determine institutional grants and scholarships, and it is also used to determine whether or not you’re eligible to participate in the federal work-study program.”

The FAFSA application for the 2024-2025 was mandated by Congress to be available no later than Dec. 31 of the previous year, according to Fsapartners.ed.gov. However, problems arose with this process. 

“The department fell behind and wasn’t able to get the new FAFSA out until basically Dec. 31,” Stokan said. “But in doing so, as with any new process, there were a lot of glitches and issues that came up. Some of those have been resolved and some of them they’re still working on.”

There are numerous changes to the FAFSA process for the 2024-2025 school year, one of them being that students and their contributors cannot fill out the financial aid form without Studentaid.gov accounts, according to Studentaid.gov. Further, another change is that anyone that adds to the student’s FAFSA can and will be considered a contributor, according to the same website. 

For Pennsylvania students, there is a May 1 deadline to complete the application. Numerous students however forget to fill out the FAFSA application, according to Stokan.

“You’d be surprised how many students lose out on that state grants because they failed to meet the deadline,” Stokan said. 

He further said, “If students are having trouble with the process with the Department of Education trying to work out all the issues, they shouldn’t hesitate to call or stop by our office and see what recommendations or insight we can give them.” 

Stokan placed a lot of emphasis on getting help with any issues or questions that students may have. Stokan can be reached by phone at (724) 852-3227, by email at mstokan@waynesburg.edu and his office can be found in 203 Miller Hall.

Waynesburg is not the only school in the nation, or even the region to be affected by this, as Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) recently announced they will not recognize May 1 as “National Decision Day.” According to the W&J press release of the announcement, the cause of this action is due to the delays surrounding FAFSA. Due to these delays, colleges and universities are not receiving family data until mid-March. 

Tracy Sheetz, Vice President of Enrollment, said these delays have caused a lot of trouble for families. 

“Many families have shared their frustrations in waiting. They are waiting for their financial aid letters to determine affordability,” said Sheetz. 

Other schools, such as the University of Illinois and Oregon State University, have announced they are pushing back their decision day to June 1, according to  “Fallout From a FAFSA Fiasco” by Liam Kox, published online Feb. 5 at insidehighered.com. The article goes on to talk about more colleges who have pushed their deadlines to June, such as Monmouth College, Kalamazoo College and Lewis & Clark College.

Asked whether W&J might again recognize National Decision Day in 2025 if FAFSA is no longer delayed then, Sheetz said, “That is to be determined, but at this point, I would assume that we would go back to business as usual.”