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The Ongoing Battle Between Students and the FAFSA

SBHS College and Career appears empty after students who have attempted to complete the FAFSA have been told all they can do is wait. [Image credit: Yharai Casas]

There have been some very influential changes this year in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application process. For some applicants it has been a breeze, but for many others it has been a cruel and overwhelming toil. Some of these changes include a later opening date; in past years, FAFSA has welcomed applications on October 1, but this year it did not open until the end of December. This has shortened the timeline for applicants to complete their forms and receive guidance in this process. Some of the major challenges include technical difficulties when creating a parent’s account, receiving help from the FAFSA help desk, and the large amount of time required to complete the application. As many have also noticed, the FAFSA divides its process into a student section and a parent section. Now the application requires two-party activities and a merging of information. 

The students most commonly struggling are those who have immigrant parents. Chloe Merrick, a senior at SBHS, spoke about how frustrating the process has been after her application was flagged due to her father being a former immigrant from the UK. “He’s been an American citizen for a very long time, and there’s no way his social [security number] is wrong…it’s the only conclusion I can come up with.” While this targeting may not have been intentional, it does not excuse the FAFSA’s disorganization. “My suspicion is that this ‘new and improved’ FAFSA was not ready to be launched, but federal law stated that the FAFSA has to go live before January 1st. I ultimately think they [FAFSA] rushed the roll-out and it was not ready,” Spencer Barr, SBHS’s college and career guidance counselor, explained. 

This already stressful application process has evolved into something very discouraging for many students. SBHS senior Hugh Deal noted how this process has heavily discouraged students and pushed them to give up. For Deal, it is more than just the nerve-racking stress of seeing if college would be financially possible, but feeling completely alone in this process. Rachel Estrada from the California Student Opportunity and Access Program (Cal-SOAP) explained that she has come across more cases than usual this year where there is nothing she can do to help because FAFSA needs to take care of the errors on their end. FAFSA has been improving little by little and has been keeping the public informed of their latest updates, but these technical difficulties have made an already agitating process much more complicated.


  • Yharai Casas Mejia

    Yharai is a senior at SBHS. She plays on the girls varsity water polo team and is in the MAD academy. She enjoys eating good food and hiking and is excited to write for the voice of SBHS.

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