Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

The Impact of FAFSA Processing Errors on Whitman Admissions

The Department of Education announced a calculation error with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that will delay financial aid award letters for 200,000 applicants. 

The delay comes on the heels of other delays with the FAFSA form after changes intended to simplify the process through the new “Better FAFSA Formresulted in calculation errors and technical difficulties.

Through final implementation of the Better FAFSA Form, the Department aims to streamline the application process and ensure that students can access the maximum financial aid available to them. 

Associate Director of Financial Aid Services Karri Mickelson believes that the main goal the office had this year was to ensure that the approach they take to financial aid can provide assurance to students and families even as the FAFSA goes through these major changes. 

“While we use the FAFSA to determine whether any of a student’s need-based scholarships or grants come from a federal or state source, this doesn’t impact the bottom-line amount of aid a student receives. The reason for this is twofold. We use the CSS Profile to determine the full amount of need-based scholarships and grants a student is eligible for, so information from FAFSA doesn’t impact the total amount of aid a student will get,” Mickelson said. 

Mickelson stressed that data from the CSS profile is uninterrupted, and she anticipates relatively stable costs to families for the next academic year.

“Students who receive need-based aid from Whitman and whose financial situation has not changed significantly can expect a financial aid offer that keeps their family’s out-of-pocket cost relatively stable,” Mickelson said. 

Vice President for Admission and Financial Aid Adam Miller said that the college is building potential government aid and Pell grants into its offers to prospective students. In case the student ultimately does not receive this aid, he says the college will cover the cost with funding from its financial aid budget.

“There is some risk for us in guaranteeing financial aid awards without knowing exactly how much state and federal aid students will qualify for, but we decided the risk was worth it in order to be able to provide rock solid financial information to admitted students as early as possible,” Miller said.

Miller also highlighted the college’s Early Financial Aid Guarantee program.

“This is the fifth year of our Early Financial Aid Guarantee program, an innovative program that has been widely praised because it provides a full financial aid package before students even apply. This year we committed to maintaining that program even though the FAFSA was delayed, and this ended up being really helpful because it helped us realize early on that we would be able to provide full financial aid offers even without a FAFSA,” Miller said. 

Miller explained the breakdown of aid that the college is shooting for in terms of need-based and talent awards.

“Whitman is fortunate to be able to provide very generous need-based financial aid, along with non-need-based academic and talent scholarships as well. The balance we aim for is for 75-80 percent of our financial aid to go toward meeting students’ demonstrated financial need and for the rest to go toward non-need-based scholarships that help us attract exceptionally strong and talented students who don’t qualify for need-based aid,” Miller said.

With a focus on meeting demonstrated financial need while also allocating resources for non-need-based scholarships, the college aims to create a balanced approach that fosters both inclusivity and excellence. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education has stepped up support for colleges, particularly those with limited resources that receive high numbers of students with Pell grants. This support is intended to help navigate the challenges posed by FAFSA processing errors. 

Ongoing errors have presented significant challenges for colleges and students alike, impacting the timely distribution of financial aid and adding layers of uncertainty to the college admissions process.

Despite the inherent risks involved in guaranteeing aid awards without precise knowledge of federal and state funding, Whitman continues to prioritize the provision of robust financial assistance to alleviate the uncertainties faced by prospective students and their families.

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