Education Department releases FAFSA “soft launch” timeline

December 21, 2023
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The Department of Education released details Friday on the rollout of the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid, noting that the previously announced Dec. 31 deadline represented a “soft launch period,” during which officials will monitor for technical issues, field concerns from families and make last-minute tweaks.

The ED will also implement periodic “pauses,” when students already working on FAFSAs may continue doing so but new forms cannot be started. The department clarified that “full processing” of forms will not begin until late January, and students need not rush to complete the form once it’s released.

Because of this delay and the potential for maintenance interruptions, the department advised college financial aid and admissions offices—many of which have already begun planning or conducting FAFSA information and completion sessions for prospective students—to hold off on doing so until late next month.

“We will be treating the period leading up to and following Dec. 31 as a soft launch period, which will allow us to monitor and respond in real time to any potential issues impacting the applicant experience,” the announcement said. “[We] will not transmit results to schools until later in January.”

The release comes a week after lawmakers sent a letter to the department asking for clarification on the launch date as well as increased support services for students and families navigating the new form. It caps off a year of uncertainty and frustration surrounding the simplified FAFSA, especially its much-delayed rollout.



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