One reason for the delay is that the Education Department was late in updating some of its calculations for inflation. Completing that work means that 1.3 million people will get larger Pell Grants — the money the federal government makes available to lower-income students — than they would have otherwise.
The delay, however, disrupts the work of harried financial aid officers at schools, who are trying to digest the biggest changes to the system in decades without shutting it down during the reboot.
Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, a group that represents aid officers, said in a statement that the “continued delays — communicated at the last minute — threaten to harm the very students and families that federal student aid is intended to help.”
The actual harm will depend on how nimble his members are once they get the data from the government — and the patience of families trying to make enormous financial decisions without a clear sense of the price. “Because of the delay, current and newly-admitted students will not know their estimated financial aid offer until very late in the spring semester,” Keith Williams, executive director of Michigan State University’s financial aid office, said in an email.
One big concern is that some low-income or first-generation students will just throw up their hands and not bother to complete their applications.