Watchdog Investigates Biden Admin’s Botched Financial Aid Launch

( – The rollout of a reformed federal financial aid system for college students has caught the attention of a non-partisan government watchdog after suffering multiple setbacks and issues. A bipartisan bill from December 2020 designed to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) was supposed to result in a smoother process for students and their families by the 2024/2025 award year. Still, despite the length of time between the bill’s creation and its intended start date, it has faced delays and left students across the country in a state of uncertainty regarding their education.

The bill should have made the aid application process easier for the 17 million students making use of FAFSA, but the Department of Education has repeatedly failed to meet its deadlines in establishing the new system which itself has been reportedly riddled with technical problems. The failure of the department to meet its deadlines has caused the Office of Federal Student Aid to run late in processing the FAFSA applications, in turn forcing colleges across the US to postpone their student admission deadlines by several weeks and leaving prospective students and their parents unsure about whether or not they will be able to afford their preferred colleges.

The new system should have been launched in October 2023; this date was pushed back until December. Upon December’s rollout, many applicants struggled to access the necessary form, and those who did manage to use it found that it lacked the originally promised adjustments for inflation. There have been further problems with the new system, including its failure to correctly recognize and link parents’ social security numbers with their children’s applications.

The litany of errors and delays has not gone unnoticed by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which has now launched two investigations into the attempted reform of FAFSA. These investigations will examine the technical issues and the problems around the project’s planning and execution. The GAO already released a report to Congress in June 2023 which raised issues with “the reliability of the schedule” and said that the Office of Federal Student Aid needed to create a new estimate for the project’s life cycle cost which could then be used to create a new budget and schedule. Without this, the GAO warned Congress that the project would be at risk of increasing costs and causing delays.

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