Utah Board of Higher Education allocates $8.5M for students impacted by FAFSA delays

A student at the University of Utah library on March 13. The Utah Board of Higher Education approved roughly $8.5 million to support students affected by delays and other issues related to this year's Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

A student at the University of Utah library on March 13. The Utah Board of Higher Education approved roughly $8.5 million to support students affected by delays and other issues related to this year's Free Application for Federal Student Aid. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — In a move aimed at supporting students, the Utah Board of Higher Education on Thursday approved roughly $8.5 million in funding to support students affected by delays and other issues related to this year's rendition of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

With many students dependent on federal aid funds to pursue higher education, this year's rollout of the FAFSA has acted as a barrier due to delays and technical issues.

"Given the impact of the delays in implementing the new FAFSA form, the Board's action to immediately provide additional funding will significantly benefit students in need now," Weber State University President Brad Mortensen said in a statement. "At Weber State University, these funds have the potential to benefit thousands of our students who struggle to pay for college and reap the benefits of a college education."

The $8.5 million allocation was approved in hopes of alleviating financial concerns students many have about attending a college or university in the fall.

FAFSA issues

This year's FAFSA has been different than previous years in numerous ways, and the changes have caused complications for prospective students and schools alike.

Normally, the FAFSA application opens to people on Oct. 1, but this year, the U.S. Department of Education delayed the form for the 2024-25 school year until Dec. 31, 2023.

This has been further complicated by delays and challenges with the application itself, including glitches and technical errors for students and parents trying to fill out the online form.

On March 22, the Department of Education announced a miscalculation in the student aid index — which replaced the expected family contribution — related to dependent students who reported assets. This meant any forms containing information delivered to schools before March 21 need to be reprocessed, U.S. News reported.

"The FAFSA delays and issues are a national emergency, creating barriers for the neediest of Utah students," said Javier Chavez Jr., Utah Board of Higher Education member. "We took immediate action to break down those barriers and support our students."

Disbursement

The approved spending policy was made available from the approximately $300 million Higher Education Student Success Endowment, which is used to support Utah System of Higher Education priorities as well as current and prospective students.

According to a release from USHE, the board intends to allow 10% of annual endowment disbursements to be used for board-specific initiatives, including supporting existing state aid programs. The remaining 90% will be allocated to USHE institutions, with 90% going to degree-granting institutions and 10% to technical colleges to supplement the following programs:

  • Utah Promise Grant
  • Talent Development Grant (degree-granting institutions)
  • Technical Education Scholarship (institutions with technical education programs)
  • One Utah Service Fellowship (created by SB206 in 2024)

"Essentially, the institutions can take those funds and apply it to their existing promise programs or promise scholarships and grants, and award more funding to more students who need financial help for college," said Trisha Dugovic, director of communications for Utah's higher education system. "If the institutions have other aid programs or scholarships, or other ways that they award students with financial need in these ways, they can request that from the Utah Board of Higher Education for additional approval to use it underneath other programs or state aid areas."

To further assist students and families impacted by this year's FAFSA issues, the higher education system is expanding its outreach to students and families through the FAFSA Help Initiative, which provides support for completing FAFSA applications.

Anyone seeking more information or assistance with the FAFSA process can find it online at ushe.edu/fafsa/.

"We are excited for the opportunity to put these endowment funds to work for Utah students," said Steve Neeleman, Utah Board of Higher Education vice chair, in a statement. "Reinvesting in our students will provide many individuals with the essential resources to help them achieve their educational goals. By supporting key programs, we can address the unique needs of each public Utah college and ensure that all students have the opportunity to thrive and succeed at college."

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Logan Stefanich is a reporter with KSL.com, covering southern Utah communities, education, business and tech news.

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