The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Q&A | Expert explains changes, rocky rollout of new FAFSA application

Associate Director of Student Financial Aid Kelsey Ryder shares tips for navigating the new FAFSA application that rolled out earlier this year.

The new Free Application for Federal Student Aid has had a turbulent rollout since its launch in Dec. 2023, with website crashes and confusion for parents and students.

The Daily Iowan spoke with University of Iowa Associate Director of Student Financial Aid Kelsey Ryder about how students and their families can better navigate this new form and what resources they can look to for assistance through the process.

In the new form, all tax return records used to calculate aid are now drawn directly from the IRS, and do not have to be manually filled out by parents or students. Additionally, any parent, step-parent, or other guardian of a student who files their own tax return must make a FAFSA account as a contributor.

Because of the complications so far, Ryder said the UI has decided to push the application deadline from Feb. 1 to Feb. 15 to allow students more time to work on their submissions.

The Daily Iowan: What should students know about the changes in the new application, and could you highlight the key changes in the new FAFSA application process?

Kelsey Ryder: In general, this should be a faster process for a lot of our students because less financial information has to be inputted because a lot of stuff is going to come in automatically from the IRS. So that should be a good change. One other change is that there’s a whole new term that exists now called FAFSA contributor. I think that can be a little confusing because it doesn’t necessarily mean that person has to be contributing to paying for your education. It just means they’re contributing to being on your FAFSA form.

A contributor is anyone whose tax return information is going to be needed for that FAFSA to be completed, and the FAFSA will guide students through who those people are. So it would be the student and then their parent or their step-parent, and if the student is married, it would be their spouse.

The other new thing with FAFSA is that anyone who’s a contributor will have to have a “” login to do their portion of the FAFSA. In the past, one parent only needed a login to do the FAFSA, but now if they need information from two separate tax returns that parents didn’t file together, then more than one parent might need a login.

Another change that I think is good for students to know is because of all the FAFSA changes, schools won’t be getting their information as quickly as they typically do. Usually, we get information right away when a FAFSA is filed, but because they’re making all these changes, we won’t get FAFSA record information until sometime in February. So, if students have questions about what they put on the FAFSA, we can’t really answer them right now. But we’ll be able to see more in February when we get those results.

The rollout has been reported as rocky. Do you have advice for filling out and submitting the form?

There was definitely a lot of downtime on the site at first, but now the site seems to be up pretty consistently.

My advice to students filling it out would be for their contributors who don’t have a login already to make one as soon as they can. There’s a three-day turnaround for things to get confirmed with that, so that can slow people down a little bit if they don’t already have one.

One thing that we heard from the Department of Ed., too, is that when the students go in to add their contributors, and they have to put in their email and their information, they should try to match the name and stuff to what their parents created.

Another tip would be to watch for an email from FAFSA to confirm you submitted it correctly.

When it comes to a certain group of students right now, the Department of Ed. is not able to accept FAFSA from students whose parents don’t have a social security number, so that might be parents from another country or parents who are undocumented. Those families will have trouble submitting the FAFSA right now, and they’re working to fix that. If a student is specifically having that issue, they can contact us to let us know that they can’t submit it, that way we know. But it is frustrating for that small group when something like that is not working.

How do these changes aim to simplify the application for students and families?

Once it is running smoothly there should be a lot fewer questions for students and parents to answer. That’s because everything’s coming right from the IRS, so we will also have more accurate financial information, which should mean that we don’t have to ask students for as much additional paperwork to get their financial aid finalized.

What are the most common challenges students face when filling out the FAFSA?

This year, I think it’ll just be a little bit confusing to make sure all their contributors have submitted because they each have to go in and do their part. Then right now, just making changes once you submit the FAFSA can be a little tricky, but as long as students get something submitted that’s a good start. We can always help them down the road later in the spring if they need to make changes for sure.

Why is it important that students fill out the form? And does doing so before Feb. 1 make a difference in aid?

It never hurts to see what you’ll get by filling it out. So aside from the time it takes to fill it out, it definitely doesn’t hurt, especially this year because of all the changes with the FAFSA and how they’re calculating things. I think it’s a good year to go in and fill it out and just make sure that you’re not going to miss out on anything. If nothing else, all students would qualify for federal student loans, which are going to be a lot lower interest typically than a private student loan would be.

If nothing else, all students would qualify for federal student loans, which are going to be a lot lower interest typically than a private student loan would be.

When it comes to filling in this case now by Feb. 15, it’s most important for our students who are getting need-based grants and scholarships. Those can be renewed, and we communicate specifically with those students that they have to file by that deadline. For other students, it’s good to still fill it out by that deadline because you’re getting in that first group, but it’s not as big of a deal as our students that have that need-based aid.

If, for some reason, the student can’t fill it out by Feb. 15, I would just say to fill it out as soon as you can. It’s definitely okay to fill it out after the deadline, we have lots and lots that come in after that. So sometimes people think they can’t do it if they don’t go by then.

For scholarships that are just merit-based, like through admissions or a department, the FAFSA wouldn’t matter for those. There’s a spot on MyUI, where students can also see scholarship and grant renewal requirements and if they need to file the FAFSA by the deadline for their specific scholarships.

Iowa is one of seven states to have its own financial aid form. How does this impact filling out the FAFSA form?

We are one of the states that have their own financial aid form. Before this year, a lot of the information could be imported from the FAFSA over to the state of Iowa aid application, but with the new IRS stuff that isn’t going to, that import isn’t going to happen like it did in the past. There should still be a link to the state aid application at the end of the FAFSA for students who are residents of Iowa, and they can fill it out. If, for some reason, they don’t see that link, they can still go online and fill it out at

Where can students go if they have issues or more questions about the FAFSA?

Students can contact the FAFSA Help Center. They’ve got a chat and a phone number. They are busy right now with lots of questions but there are some things that we just can’t answer. Students are also welcome to contact our office with any questions that they have. There is also a free resource in the state of Iowa called ICANN, and they actually will schedule an appointment with you to fill out your FAFSA if a student wants to use that but there can just be some wait time for those appointments.

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About the Contributor
Grace Olson
Grace Olson, News Reporter
Grace Olson is a first-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications. She's a news reporter for The DI, reporting primarily on local government. She is from Denver, Colorado and worked on the pirnt publication from her high school prior to her work in college.