New FAFSA Form Poses Challenges, Kent State Is Ready to Help

Revisions to federal financial aid application are causing issues for parents and students

Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is always challenging for students and their parents, but this year’s process may be even more daunting. 

Sylvia Bustard

For the first time in more than 30 years, the U.S. Department of Education has revised the form to make it simpler and easier to apply. That new form, however, has revealed its share of glitches and issues for applicants. 

 “I've been in financial aid for 23 years and this is the most radical change in the FAFSA that we have seen in my experience,” said Sylvia Bustard, Kent State University’s director of University Scholarships and Student Financial Aid. 


Bustard offered advice on some key areas in the new FAFSA to help guide students and their parents through the process: 

IRS Link 

In the new form, there is a direct link to the Internal Revenue Service, where parents must authorize their income tax data to be transferred to the FAFSA form. Parents must consent to have their tax information directly transferred to the FAFSA.  

In the past, the form offered a link to the IRS website to retrieve the data. Now, the data transfer is seamless, but consent must be given. Without this consent, the application will go no further. 

“This step is not optional,” Bustard said. “You really need to do it or else you're not going to get financial aid.” 

This step, Bustard said, has presented some challenges for people who have filled out the form before, because it is different. “Parents who had students who had done it before are finding it a little bit challenging because it's not doing what they expect it to do,” she said. 

Schools Don’t Have Access 

Another change, Bustard said, is when Kent State can see a student’s application.  

When a student submits the FAFSA form, they are required to list what universities and colleges they are applying to or considering. 

In the past, once a school was listed on an application, that university had access to the form so they could monitor where students were in the application process and offer help and guidance along the way. 

Currently, those results are not being sent to the colleges and universities and are not expected to be for several more weeks, Bustard said.  

“So, at this point, we are really struggling because we want to help people understand where they are at in their application process, but we don’t have access to it,” she said.  

Bustard said her office recently hosted an online event for incoming students and had to explain that the university was not able to see their applications to offer help. “That is not typical in a normal FAFSA year,” she said. 

In the past, Kent State financial aid staff was able to review it and offer guidance, pinpoint problems, errors or missed boxes that could slow down the application.  

The problem, Bustard said, is the same for all universities, not just Kent State. But not being able to help students has been frustrating for students and the university, she said. 

Instead, students must use helplines set up by the U.S. Department of Education, where the response time for callbacks has been slow for many students, Bustard said. 

Report Problems 

Bustard said it is important for students or parents to report any kind of issues they are having because the education department is working to resolve them. 

There is a page created to report FAFSA issues which also lists issues that already have been reported and those that have been resolved. 

“That’s one of the things that Kent State’s financial aid office can do for you if you call us. Even if we can’t solve the problem for you, we can at least report the issue to the Department of Education for you. And that could help to escalate the issue and get it resolved a little bit sooner. These issues have to be reported,” Bustard said. 


New March Deadline 

While the glitches are worked out this year, Bustard said there is no need to rush. Kent State has extended its FAFSA filing deadline to March 1 for incoming students, to allow more time for the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Office to troubleshoot issues with the new application, she said. 

 Returning students are not bound by the March 1 deadline unless they intend to take classes over the summer, she said. However, returning students who receive work-study or Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants should adhere to the March 1 deadline, as those programs have limited pools of money and are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Help is Available 

The good news is that Kent State has plenty of help available. On Jan. 26, the university is hosting two events for new students who will be entering in the fall, to answer questions and offer help. Both events are full, Bustard noted. 

“We’re not going to have all the answers, but we’re going to have a lot of answers,” Bustard said. 

Additional sessions and sessions for current students are expected to be scheduled. Students are required to fill out FAFSA every year, so returning students also will be dealing with this new application. 

Any existing student who needs help can make a “FAFSA in a Flash” appointment at the One Stop for Student Services located in the University Library on the Kent Campus. Bustard also is working with One Stop to increase the number of FAFSA appointment times available to help deal with the new application. 

 Additional help is available at all Regional Campus locations, Bustard noted.




POSTED: Wednesday, January 24, 2024 10:13 AM
Updated: Wednesday, January 31, 2024 04:03 PM
Lisa Abraham