West Virginia Declares State of Emergency Over FAFSA Chaos

On Tuesday, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) declared a state of emergency over persistent points with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) type. The monetary help type, which is required for any school college students searching for federal grants or loans—to not point out monetary help at most schools—has been plagued with technical bugs since its rollout in December.

As half of the state of emergency, Justice has lifted the state’s requirement that college students submit the FAFSA type with a purpose to obtain main state grants. 

“I don’t believe any other state in the nation has gone this far, but I simply cannot and will not stand by as money sits on the table that could be helping our students continue their education,” Justice mentioned in a press release. “There’s only so much outreach you can do when students can’t complete the form due to issues only the federal government can control. We have been left with no choice but to suspend the FAFSA requirement for our state financial aid programs.”

As half of the 2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act, the Education Department was directed to create a streamlined model of the FAFSA type. On December 31, 2023, the division lastly launched the brand new type—greater than two months later than FAFSA’s ordinary launch date and with out extending the deadline for completion. While the up to date type was a lot shorter than earlier variations, it was additionally inundated with technical bugs.

FAFSA’s personal website particulars dozens of errors within the type since its launch date—some that endured for months, stopping college students from finishing the shape at all. In March, the Education Department even announced that round 200,000 full varieties had been miscalculated, main schools and the federal government to supply college students extra monetary help than they had been eligible for.

In a typical yr, round 17 million college students fill out the FAFSA type, however as of mid-April profitable type completions are down 29 %. That means tens of millions of college students who would sometimes full the shape are more likely to miss out on monetary help for faculty.

How is West Virginia going to know who’s eligible for state grants with out FAFSA? According to Tuesday’s press launch, college students can present they’re eligible for the need-based Higher Education Grant by offering their faculty with a letter displaying they qualify for one of a number of state welfare packages (like Medicaid or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Students who beforehand acquired the grant do not need to show eligibility once more. 

The governor’s executive order additionally lifts the FAFSA requirement for a handful of different state academic grants, although it is not clear if college students might want to full further steps in place of FAFSA to obtain funding. 

Justice’s govt order highlights simply how disastrous this yr’s FAFSA rollout has turn out to be—and sends a strong sign that, if the federal authorities cannot make good on its guarantees, particular person states can take issues into their very own palms.

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