The University System of Maryland on FAFSA Delays Affecting May 1st Decision Day

February 15, 2024

Last year, the U.S. Department of Education revamped its Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to simplify the application process and motivate more students and families to apply for federal grants and loans. Plus, new calculations were introduced to help significantly more students qualify for federal aid, and to help more students qualify for the maximum amount allowable. We’re grateful that U.S. officials are prioritizing college access and affordability.

However, the implementation of these changes has been problematic, causing significant challenges for colleges and universities across the nation. The new FAFSA was released for students and families to fill out in late December, more than two months later than usual. A number of technical issues were uncovered since then, and in late January, the U.S. Department of Education announced that colleges will not receive federal student aid data until mid-March.

This delay acutely affects our USM universities, which typically begin offering their own financial aid packages in late January—packages based on information received via the FAFSA. With several USM universities imposing a May 1 deadline for students to accept an offer of admission, receiving information in mid-March shrinks to just a couple of weeks the amount of time financial aid offices would have to assess students’ financial circumstances and package their offers of aid. In turn, students would have to decide very quickly which offer to accept.

For these reasons, USM universities are extending undergraduate students’ decision deadline to May 15, and some may push that deadline back further if there are additional FAFSA delays. This gives students and families more time to consider different aid offers and select the university that best meets their needs. (This change does not apply to students considering admission to the University of Maryland, Baltimore and the University of Maryland Global Campus.)

This Decision Day move could affect other dates, such as housing deposit deadlines. Therefore, university-based teams managing admissions, enrollment, financial aid, housing, and student life are working closely with one another to ensure a smooth process for new and returning students.

Our universities are communicating frequently with students, prospective students, and their families. And financial aid officers within the USM meet regularly with one another and with the Maryland Higher Education Commission, which offers in-state students a number of grants, scholarships, and loan assistance programs—aid that may be similarly affected by FAFSA delays.

We know this difficult FAFSA rollout has been frustrating for students and families. The U.S. Department of Education has pledged to send federal officials to colleges across the country to help financial aid staff prepare and process students’ aid forms once the FAFSA information is received, prioritizing colleges with few resources. The agency is also providing millions of dollars to U.S. nonprofits that help families navigate the financial aid process.

It bears noting that these FAFSA delays in no way mean that aid to students will be rescinded or reduced. If students are eligible for federal aid under the new FAFSA, that aid—in its full amount—will be forthcoming.

While this is not how we hoped the new FAFSA would be introduced, we remain grateful for its intent: to make higher education more affordable for more students.

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Contact: Mike Lurie
Phone: 301.445.2719