We’ve fumed already. Now, it’s time for action to return trust in FAFSA

Why is our country making it so difficult for our most vulnerable yet worthy students to receive the college education they deserve? It's time for action, not just awareness, and not just a review.
Jane Fernandes
Jane Fernandeshttps://antiochcollege.edu/
Jane Fernandes is the president of Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

We are now well past the six-month mark for the delayed delivery of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) information to college campuses and students. While the Department of Education has announced that a review is being launched to seek recommendations about how to improve the Federal Student Aid office, America is at a crisis point and the situation demands immediate action.

Thousands of aspiring college students and their families face profound uncertainty and confusion. As a result, some may never enter college. Many institutions are already facing serious financial and planning hardships. Some may not recover.

As a nation, we are facing a generational crisis. We are in danger of losing the talents and contributions of thousands and thousands of young people. In turn, they are losing the chance to break multi-generational cycles of poverty and other limits—the core promise of American higher education.

The FAFSA fiasco of 2024 is a national emergency that has impacted states, campuses and families alike. It is also a crisis of our own making. We are facing the prospect of denying many first-generation and qualified students the opportunity to attend college.

Without the FAFSA, the absence of concrete support will stifle the growth of many of our most worthy students for generations to come. But with it, doors will open that make the vast history of human knowledge accessible and available to young people who otherwise might never have a chance to use the past and present to build a new future we very much rely upon them to initiate, explore and create.


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At Antioch, FAFSA enables access for the vast majority of our students to secure federal Pell Grants. With these grants, we can offer a high-quality liberal arts education at a minimal cost to bright and dedicated students who otherwise could not afford to attend.

This year, a staggering 40% of students have yet to complete a FAFSA. On top of that, 30% of the initial FAFSAs were faulty and required reprocessing, often taking months.

The current chaos surrounding FAFSA diminishes our students’ chance of securing Pell Grants for their education. This disproportionally affects colleges such as my own that serve high percentages of low-income students. The FAFSA is a crucial tool that levels the playing field for all applicants, ensuring opportunities for all to pursue their dreams of higher education at the college of their choice. This is not about financial aid but equal access to education, a fundamental principle we must uphold.

Members of Congress are well aware of the delay’s impact on students and families but have yet to do much to address their needs. It’s time for action, not just awareness, and not just a review. These students have faced multiple life challenges, including a global pandemic, yet they have extraordinary resilience, commitment and intelligence. Why is our country making it so difficult for our most vulnerable yet worthy students to receive the college education they deserve?

At Antioch, and at so many other colleges and universities across the country, we are doing our part to deliver the core promise of American higher education. It is time for members of Congress and the Department of Education to do theirs.

Jane Fernandes is the president of Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

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