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'It's very frustrating': Kansas City high school seniors concerned after national FAFSA delays, glitches

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Posted at 6:27 PM, Apr 09, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Delays and glitches in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, are a nationwide issue affecting students here in Kansas City, Missouri.

According to the National College Attainment Network, federal student loan applications are down 27% from last school year.

Typically, the online form opens in late October, but not everyone could access it this year until mid-January.

Not only has that resulted in a decline in FAFSA applications, but also subsequent delays in scholarship and college applications for thousands of seniors.

“We have deadlines, we have things that have been set since last year, since freshman year, but they have all been pushed back because of FAFSA," said Angel Akinleye, a senior at Ruskin High School. "My mom is a single mother, so the college funds are on me. I don’t know how I’m gonna pay for it or if I’m going to be able to go to it."

Akinleye is planning to major in nursing at the University of Missouri - Kansas City, which is a part of the UM System.

On April 4, the UM System announced it would be extending its enrollment deadline to May 15 “to give prospective students and their families more time to review their financial aid offers and make college decisions."

A spokesperson for the UM System confirmed that the overall numbers are up by 10% with nearly 800 more deposits now compared to this time last year.

The University of Missouri - Columbia is up 12% from this time last year with just over 6,000 enrollment deposits.

UMKC is up by 1% with nearly 1,000 deposits; Missouri S&T is up by 12% with nearly 1,200 deposits; and UMSL is up by more than 1% with nearly 400 deposits.

Despite these numbers, there are students like Akinleye who have yet to enroll or submit a deposit because of delayed FAFSA summaries.

“It’s just kind of messing with my brain a bit,” she said.

She’s not the only one at her school feeling this way.

Margarita Macias is also a senior at Ruskin High School. She plans to attend Avila University and be a radiologic technician.

“I really am counting on FAFSA to come through,” Macias said. “Even if it’s like, a couple thousand dollars, it helps.”

Macias says she knows the new FAFSA application has been helpful for a lot of her peers. For her, however, the updates actually made the process more difficult.

“I’m a first generation student, and I didn’t really have anybody guiding me through that process,” Macias said. “My parents are undocumented, and they changed that whole process with the FAFSA.”

At Ruskin, college advisor and Ruskin alum Andrea Brown, is there to help.

“I know a lot of my students are first generation, low income students that are relying on FAFSA to get financial aid to go to college,” Brown said.

She says navigating the new FAFSA application has been a learning experience for both she and her students.

“It was confusing,” Brown said. “It was a lot of meetings, Tik Toks, Reddit posts, Google searches.”

Even still, she knows how much these applications matter.

“Right now, my main priority is making sure that every student I know applied to college gets a FAFSA on file so they can see what resources are available to them,” Brown said. “There are a lot of tears there are a lot of families that give up, so I try my hardest to kind of stop them from giving up.”

That encouragement has gone a long way for both Akinleye and Macias.

“I had given up on it for a while,” Macias said. “I had gone to Ms. Brown’s office like, I’m kind of tired of it, I don’t want to do it anymore.”

Whether it’s decision day or graduation, the clock is ticking.

That’s why these seniors are grateful there’s someone keeping them on schedule and determined to achieve their dreams.

“Once I start something, I kind go want to get it done, it want to finish it,” Macias said.