Incoming Temple students, families struggle with FAFSA delays

The university extended its enrollment and housing deposit deadline by two weeks in consideration of a data delay impacting financial aid packages.

In consideration of FAFSA deadlines, Temple extended its enrollment and housing deposits by two weeks. | OLIVER ECONOMIDIS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Prospective Temple students have yet to receive their FAFSA federal financial aid from the university as a data delay has left colleges nationwide unable to create aid packages for months past the typical deadline.

Temple extended the enrollment decision deadline by two weeks to May 15, the university notified prospective students through the student portal on April 19. 

At least 279 other universities also pushed their decision deadlines back due to the FAFSA delay, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

“Our office is inundated with the challenges surrounding the 24-25 FAFSA application and process,” wrote Emilie Van Trieste, director of student financial services, in an email to The Temple News. “We remain focused on assisting our students and their families with the application and navigating any issues that arise.”

FAFSA rolled out a new, overhauled report system on Dec. 30, 2023, already delayed from the usual Oct. 1 application release date. The new form is intended to be simpler and shorter, making it easier to apply for aid, but users experienced a myriad of glitches after its release that prevented forms from being processed. 

The initial delay stalled universities from receiving financial aid data from FAFSA until March, when they usually receive them on a rolling basis following the priority deadline on Feb. 1. The university has since had to process the information and make financial aid offers in a shorter time frame.

“While the testing and build process is underway, there remains a lot of challenges for schools to navigate,” Van Trieste wrote. “The U.S. Department of Education continues to share with us, almost daily, the issues, delays and errors in processing student applications they are encountering.”

Even with the deadline extension, prospective Temple students and their families will have short notice of how much federal aid they’ll be afforded.

Ratonda Tate-Duffy, the mother of incoming freshman journalism major Leah Duffy, has been struggling with not knowing exactly how much they’ll owe for Temple’s tuition.

“For [Leah,] it’s hard because she already knows she wants to go to Temple,” said Ratonda, a single mother and human resources specialist from Baltimore. “We have supplemental things to assist, but we do not know how much she received from the federal government and that is a feeling of anxiety for her. And it’s giving me anxiety because I have a child right after her. As soon as she hits the ground running in August, I have to do it again, figuring out what [my son] is entitled to. From those two perspectives, it’s a bunch of anxiety.”

Ratonda values the extra time provided by the deadline decision. Even if her family receives the package as late as April 30, she’ll have time to think their finances through while her daughter makes her final decision.

Sophia Roberto, an incoming psychology major and honors student, and her mother Eleanor Roberto, have grappled with both the wait and complications in the FAFSA forms.

While the Robertos have received packages from Drexel and St. Joe’s, Sophia is still waiting on Temple — the one university that has made her feel excited to go to college, she said.

“[FAFSA is] the only thing really holding me back from committing to Temple,” Sophia said. “I want to commit, but at the same time, I don’t want to be in a bunch of debt and I don’t want to take a lot of loans out. I want to see what it looks like on paper when everything comes out and really think about what is worth it for me to commit to spending.”

The family needs the extra time before the decision deadline to discuss the package, which they believe could be based on inaccurate information: problems in the FAFSA form led to it being based on their 2022 taxes. 

As many as 20 percent of FAFSA forms needed corrections, according to an April 9 update from the U.S. Department of Education. Families had to wait until the week of April 15 to start fixing any mistakes. 

Eleanor wants the decision deadline to be pushed back further, until June 1, so they have time to assess Temple’s aid package to ensure it reflects the support the family currently needs.

“I really want to get the point across to everybody, to understand that this particular class of high school graduates have been through a lot,” Ratonda said. “They have been through a lot. Their freshman year was totally virtual and to have them in this situation when they’re graduating is like piling things on top of them that I don’t think that we were expecting. They’ve been adjusting themselves since their freshman year.” 

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