Education & Family

Yet another FAFSA problem: Many noncitizens can’t fill it out

In reporting this story, NPR spoke with households, counselors and advocates who shared related issues. Among these impacted are everlasting residents, inexperienced card holders or undocumented dad and mom with no Social Security quantity.

Since the shape opened in January, Azer, Cordova Ramirez and her mother have tried to finish the web software greater than 20 occasions. Each time, they get the identical error message, directing them to a telephone quantity for any questions.

“We’ve called the number. They don’t have any solutions for us,” says Azer. When they name, they get an automatic message that gives previous and outdated info. When she’s fortunate sufficient to get a dwell person on the road, typically after ready on maintain for hours, they inform her to attempt filling out the shape once more later.

“Do you understand how frustrating that is?” she says. “You act like we have all the time in the world to just sit down and be like ‘Ah, time to apply for the FAFSA right now.”

Following NPR’s reporting, the U.S. Education Department stated it was conscious of the issue and that employees have been assembly every day to resolve it. They beneficial that college students with dad and mom who aren’t residents ought to wait to fill out the shape on-line, however have been unable to offer any timeline for the repair.

It’s the most recent in a sequence of problems with the FAFSA this year. The form rolled out months late, setting schools scrambling to get monetary help packages out in time. Even with the additional time to get it appropriate, NPR reported recently on a technicality the division missed – doubtlessly costing college students nearly $2 billion.

Concerns about unhealthy recommendation

The implications of this newest downside are large, stopping households from getting essential entry to cash for faculty, and even making knowledgeable enrollment choices about how a lot a university training will value them.

In the meantime, there have been troubling stories of probably dangerous workarounds – like asking college students to take pictures of their dad and mom’ passports and e-mail them to the Ed Department.

“First of all, that assumes [the parents] have one,” says Bill Short, who runs a scholarship program for first-generation college students at Saint Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y. Beyond that, he provides, it raises critical considerations about on-line privateness:

“Emailing a sensitive document like that is about as insecure as it gets. You might as well make [the required paperwork] into a paper airplane and toss it out the window.”

The lengthy wait continues

The Education Department didn’t reply to repeated requests for touch upon the timetable for a repair, or concerning the stories of households being advised to ship pictures of their passports via e-mail.

In previous years, the overall steerage with FAFSA has been for college kids to finish it as quickly as attainable. Amid the present delays, some universities have pushed again enrollment deadlines from the standard May 1 to June 1, whereas others have made their deposits refundable.

Meanwhile, the frustrations are mounting for college kids and their households as they watch “everybody else get a head start on you,” says Short.

“You’re still standing in the starting line waiting for someone to say, ‘OK, now you can go,’ ” he provides. “Your perception is: ‘By the time I finally get there, they’re going to cross the finish line, and the money’s going to be gone.’ ”

Cordova Ramirez feels that frustration deeply.

“I have done everything,” she says. “I’ve taken the extracurriculars. I’ve tried to make a good application for myself for colleges to be like, ‘Yes, that’s someone we want.’”

Every day, she asks herself the identical questions, time and again: “Am I going [to college] now? Am I going to the school that I want? Am I going to pursue the career that I want? Am I going to be something in life?”

Audio produced by: Janet Woojeong Lee and Mallory Yu
Edited by: Steve Drummond

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