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FAFSA delays impacting prospective Montana students and universities alike

UM campus
Posted at 4:16 PM, Apr 09, 2024

MISSOULA — The U.S. Department of Education updated the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) program for the 2024-2025 school year, including adjusting how the department calculates student aid.

Those changes have caused delays in the FAFSA process, starting with the application coming out later than normal this year.

This has caused stress for some incoming college freshmen, since they may have to pick a college without knowing how much money they'll actually get.

Missoula Big Sky High School senior Caiden Hamer told MTN he's feeling the pressure of the May 1, 2024, college decision date.

“I have the schools I know I can go to, but I don't know the full extent of the financial situation. So, it's kind of just like, what do I do? You know, I'm just in limbo.”

Caiden Hamer
Caiden Hamer, a Big Sky High School senior, is feeling the impact of this year's delayed FAFSA processing times.

Hamer explained that he filled out the FAFSA soon after its December launch date, “I filled out the 2024 to 2025 back on Jan. 9, I think it was. Then, it wasn't processed until March 18."

After waiting over two months for his forms and finances to come back, Hamer has to wait even longer because of a slight mistake.

“Then, it said that I had an error in my FAFSA because I actually selected no, instead of yes for one of the billion questions. Now, I have to wait to correct it and I still can't correct it right now,” he said.

The issues with FAFSA have made Hamer look outside the U.S. for college. So now, he might go to school in China.

“Since there is no government aid, there's just like exclusively an academic scholarship to go. I think that's kind of one of the reasons I'm leaning towards DKU just because I know exactly what I'm paying already. So, there's no ambiguity,” said Hamer.

Hamer expressed his frustration with the later FAFSA processing and stated, "It makes me really upset just because if this is limiting kids from pursuing higher education, it's like, instantly problematic."

Dave Kuntz
UM Director of Strategic Communication, Dave Kuntz shared that normally the university would be getting FAFSA applications in over the course of the winter time but with changes, applications are coming to them in March and April.

Just like Hamer, the University of Montana is feeling the impact of the FAFSA delays.

UM Director of Strategic Communication Dave Kuntz said that normally the university would be getting FAFSA applications in over the course of the winter time but with changes, applications are coming to them in March and April.

"It's really condensed the timeline for the University of Montana to be able to package up a financial aid offer and get it out to prospective students,” he detailed.

Kuntz said the financial aid department has been working around the clock to get financial aid packages out to new and current students.

“We will take care of it here on this end and make sure that every student who fills out that FAFSA and applies to the University of Montana gets their financial aid offer, gets the scholarship that they have earned, gets the tuition discounts that they've earned.”

Kuntz urged students and their families to get the FAFSA form turned in so they can pick classes, find a place to live, and get ready for the fall semester as soon as possible.

"It's so important because we'll have some students who can file that FAFSA and they can literally come to the University of Montana tuition-free," Kuntz noted.