The rollout of the revamped federal financial aid form known as Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, continues to be a rocky one

Now, it’s impacting college admissions timelines.

The U.S. Department of Education is not expected to get students’ financial information to universities and colleges until the middle of March, meaning it’ll take longer for institutions to compile the aid packages students need to compare choices and make their decisions. 

As a result, some colleges, including the University of Illinois-Chicago, Oregon State University and Kalamazoo College, have extended the deadline for students to commit to college, according to a piece out this week from Inside Higher Ed.  

The American Council on Education and the Association of American Universities, among other prominent national college groups, wrote a letter urging universities to bump the date.

Commitment deadlines tend to be a bigger deal at more selective colleges, including Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University. 

For now, officials at the private University Circle institution said they haven’t decided to move their deadline from May 1  — a date commonly referred to as National Decision Day. 

Case Western Reserve officials told Signal Cleveland they will continue to monitor the pace of financial aid information from the U.S. Department of Education and possibly make adjustments if necessary.

Changes hit FAFSA 

The FAFSA form, which evaluates the financial needs of students and their families and helps them qualify for loans, grants and other assistance, was rolled out in late December, months later than its typical Oct. 1 release date. 

That’s because the application underwent some big changes aimed at helping make the form easier to complete for students and families, but hurdles related to things such as technology issues, what to do if a parent doesn’t have a Social Security number, and a funding formula change occurred during the rollout.  

Only about 20% of 2024 high school seniors across Ohio filed a FAFSA through the end of January, roughly a 49% drop from the same time last year, according to data from the National College Attainment Network. It’s important to note, though, that students filling out the application last year had about three more months to file compared to current students right now. 

Looking ahead

In addition to the FAFSA, Case Western Reserve also uses something called the CSS profile. Officials said that form collects the same financial information from students and families as the FAFSA, plus some additional context. 

Only eight institutions across Ohio, including the University of Cincinnati and Oberlin College, currently utilize that form

Using this additional form allowed Case Western Reserve to prepare more comprehensive estimates for students who applied early, officials said. They expect to do the same with others applying right now, too.  

Across town, Cleveland State University’s freshman application deadline is listed as Aug. 15. And according to Cuyahoga Community College’s application website, people 18 years old and older are eligible for most of the programs the college offers. Tri-C’s spring, summer and fall applications are currently open. 

Higher education reporter for Signal Cleveland in partnership with Open Campus.