Quarles forms FAFSA rapid response task force to address delays

The 16 colleges of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, as well as colleges and universities across the country, are dealing with an unprecedented delay in students' ability to apply for federal financial aid. This delay stems from the largest overhaul in decades to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and the impact of these delays on lower-income students is causing concern.

To address the delays, KCTCS President Ryan Quarles has set up a FAFSA Rapid Response Task Force. Leveraging the strength of the system, KCTCS is relying on its own experts at each of the colleges to come together and develop a quick and significant response.

“While KCTCS cannot control the federal financial aid process, we are actively doing all we can to make it understandable and accessible for our students in a timely manner,” said Quarles. “This task force demonstrates our commitment to our students and to doing everything we can to ensure that those from all socio-economic backgrounds have an opportunity to pursue their education with KCTCS.”

“In a typical year, by March 20, KCTCS has already received FAFSA data for 35,000 students,” added Quarles. “In the current year, KCTCS has received a little over 7,000 records. With stats like this, you can understand the potential impact this disruptive rollout may have on our colleges and current and future students.”

In 2023, KCTCS received over 80,000 FAFSAs, with over 58,000 of those being Pell-eligible.

  • Quarles said the task force will:
    Develop and implement a communication plan for KCTCS students.
  • Provide estimated financial aid notifications for new and returning students.
  • Monitor the impact of FAFSA simplification and provide recommendations for strategic enrollment actions.
  • Anticipate short-term and long-term implications of aid notification and award delays and provide solutions.

In a typical year, the FAFSA becomes available for students on Oct. 1, allowing students and colleges 10 months to submit and process the financial aid application in advance of the fall semester. However, for students planning to enroll in the fall 2024 semester, the FAFSA opened on a limited basis on Dec.31, and problems with submission have plagued the process.

The impact that these delays could have on lower-income students cannot be understated. While students are not at fault for the delay, they are the ones whose lives will be impacted. For low-income students particularly, the uncertainty about available aid may lead some to delay or forgo college, negatively impacting their lifetime earning potential. At KCTCS, 80% of credential-seeking students received some form of financial aid in 2023.

Students at KCTCS often graduate with little or no tuition debt due to federal programs such as the Pell Grant and state programs like the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship and College Access Program (CAP) grant.

Not only was the timeline for students to submit their FAFSA delayed, but so has been the delivery of FAFSA information to the college financial aid departments, who use this information to process federal, state and local aid.

Last week, colleges began receiving limited FAFSA information. Although the exact delivery timeline for the backlog of submitted FAFSAs from the Department of Education remains uncertain, KCTCS is actively working to streamline the process. In a typical year, FAFSA information is usually provided to college financial aid departments in early October. Despite the current delay, KCTCS remains committed to ensuring that students receive the financial aid they need for their education.