Department of Education vows ‘full-scale review’ of financial aid office after FAFSA debacle

The Department of Education said Thursday that it is taking steps to improve operations at its Federal Student Aid office after months of delays and errors with this year’s overhauled Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The form, known as FAFSA, had a botched rollout, disrupting decision timelines for current and prospective college students and schools across the country.

In a letter to staff members Thursday, Secretary Miguel Cardona said the agency was conducting a “full-scale review of FSA’s current and historical organization, management, staffing, workflow structures, business processes, and operations” as well as vendor contracts.

In addition, the department is shaking up the office’s leadership and bringing on a team of information technology experts to help with FAFSA next year, among other efforts.

“For half a century, Federal Student Aid (FSA) has helped millions of Americans access higher education,” Cardona wrote. “Today, FSA maintains the same mission. But like any organization, its methods and scope of work have changed dramatically over time, and the environment where it now operates is continuously evolving.”

The department has hired the Boston Consulting Group to recommend ways to improve the FSA office, an agency spokesperson told NBC News. It is also working to improve oversight and accountability, Cardona said in his letter, adding that “transformational changes” at the office will be “informed by input from students, educators, and experts in systems design.”

The agency has tapped Denise Carter, the acting assistant secretary of the office of finance and operations, to lead FSA in the interim as it searches for a new executive after Richard Cordray announced his departure in late April.

Cardona said the agency welcomes guidance from the Office of the Inspector General and lawmakers, many of whom have pressed the department in recent months over its flawed overhaul of FAFSA, which Congress ordered in 2022.

Federal Student Aid has processed all of the 10.3 million FAFSA forms that have been submitted as of May 29, the department spokesperson said. After clearing its backlog in recent weeks, officials have smoothed out a process that pushed schools to delay financial aid offers, sometimes by months, and left students making tough decisions about their futures.

FAFSA completions are down only 15.5% as of May 17, according to the National College Attainment Network, a significant improvement from an almost 40% drop in March.


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