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FAFSA form a monumental challenge to students, families applying through new online portal

Online FAFSA glitches frustrate students (and their families) seeking federal financial aid.

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid has proven to be a challenging task for many Cosumnes Oaks High School students and families seeking financial assistance to attend college. 

Expected to be used by 17 million applicants, FAFSA has suffered a chaotic debut. The rollout has been plagued by site malfunctions, the untimely arrival of the application form, frequent down days for maintenance, and issues with the parental form and digital signature.

The problems have led to an effort in the California Legislature to extend the deadline for submitting the application.

The financial aid that results from completing the FAFSA is a determining factor for many high school seniors who are considering the next step in their educational career. With the setbacks and crashes on the site, students might be receiving less aid than they anticipated. Students who have struggled to complete the FAFSA application are at risk of losing out on financial aid that is often doled out on a first-come, first-served basis. 

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When describing their own experiences with FAFSA, seniors from Cosumnes Oaks echoed the frustrations voiced by students and parents across the nation.

Lauren Richey and her parents wasted no time in their attempt to fill out the form. 

“My mom spent four hours on Dec. 31 refreshing the page, only to learn that they only opened the site for 30 minutes,” Richey said. “It took us days to actually be able to fill it out.”

Kylie Watson faced difficulties in the parental section of the FAFSA. 

“My mom made an account a few weeks ago and we waited for it to process, but nothing has happened,” Watson said. “Every time I open up her account it just shows nothing, as if it’s still being processed. It was supposed to be processed two weeks ago. The site has so many maintenance days that, every time I log on, it feels like it’s shutting down.”

Karma Guillen, also a Cosumnes Oaks senior,  encountered challenges with both the parental form and general site setbacks.

When Guillen tries to sign in, she gets kicked back out – with a notification that the site is “undergoing fixes.”

“I’ve been struggling to sign in without it kicking me out,” Guillen said. “I’ve been struggling for it to be signed by my parents and sent to my colleges.”

It’s noteworthy for struggling FAFSA applicants that students like Lauren Richey found it easier to complete the application because of prior work with College Board forms. The College Scholarship Service Profile is another College Board financial aid document that allows students to apply for non-federal financial aid.

Despite the problems, Patrick Roth, a high school economics teacher and financial coach, said students need to persevere through the FAFSA process.

“Student loan debt is a massive problem,” Roth said. “By filling out the FAFSA early, students have a greater chance of qualifying for scholarships or grants. Say no to the student loans . . . ”


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Jordan Hanson
Jordan Hanson, Reporter
I'm Jordan Hanson, a senior at Cosumnes Oaks High School. Outside of class, I enjoy writing poetry and short stories as well as playing guitar and piano. One of my favorite activities is playing my electric guitar and singing classic rock with a band. I'm interested in exploring journalism as a way to channel my creativity and writing skills.
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