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Amid FAFSA delays Utah universities increase enrollment flexibility

Schools are allowing prospective students to skip a few steps until the semester starts

By Alixel Cabrera - Utah News Dispatch | Apr 2, 2024

Spenser Heaps, Utah News Dispatch

A statue of the University of Utah logo is pictured on campus in Salt Lake City on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024.

Amid a tumultuous application season for federal student aid, Utah public universities are taking special measures to allow students relying on those funds to plan for their enrollment.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, experienced various delays this year. First, with a three-month postponement of its usual October rollout because of the implementation of a new simpler system. Then, there were calculation errors on applicants’ net worths since the Department of Education failed to take into account inflation.

The delays may have an impact on students’ ability to commit to a school and secure scholarships, housing and early spots in certain courses. However, some colleges in Utah have allowed more flexibility to deal with the setbacks.

The University of Utah, the state’s flagship higher education institution, announced Monday that it would extend its enrollment deposit deadline to June 3 for incoming freshmen and transfer students to help alleviate the pressures of the ongoing FAFSA complications.

“We recognize that choosing where to attend college is one of the biggest financial decisions a family can make,” said Steve Robinson, senior associate vice president for enrollment management in a news release. “Given the latest FAFSA delays, we want to ensure all admitted students have time to learn about aid packages available. We feel it is in their best interest to provide more time so that they can feel confident before committing to the university.”

In addition to that, the release says, the U. is offering a more flexible schedule for housing; all students who submit an application by June 5 will be guaranteed on-campus student housing. The May 3 “priority application deadline” will remain in place for those who would like to participate in a first round of traditional housing room reservations.

Other Utah schools don’t have an enrollment deadline, allowing students to register until the fall semester.

Utah State University, for example, advertises a priority enrollment confirmation date of April 1 so students can plan their access to campus housing, scholarships, orientation and class registration, Amanda DeRito, USU associate vice president for strategic communications, said in an email.

However, those who didn’t make the early deadline can still secure their housing and enrollment and later submit their enrollment deposit with the first semester tuition payment.

“We do not want the FAFSA delay changing students’ decisions to attend USU,” DeRito said. “We will award federal aid as soon as we are able, so students have a realistic view of their costs. Until then, we want students to continue on their path to becoming an Aggie and we are here to help them through any questions they might have.”

Salt Lake Community College is an open enrollment school and accessible to all prospective students until the first day of school on Aug. 20, said Ryan Farley, vice president of enrollment management in a statement.

“All current or prospective SLCC students pursuing federal financial aid being affected by the Department of Education’s FAFSA delays will be held harmless and accommodated by Salt Lake Community College,” Farley said. “We have experts ready anytime during business hours to assist with filling out the new FAFSA form and ensuring all students receive the aid they are eligible for despite the FAFSA challenges this year. That will continue up to and past the start of classes this fall.”

Southern Utah University also allows students to enroll anytime before the beginning of the semester, Nikki Koontz, the school’s assistant vice president of marketing communications said. However, SUU is taking action so students feel supported through the financing process.

“In light of the evolving circumstances, we’ve extended our scholarship application deadline until school begins,” Koontz said. “This extension means that students still have the opportunity to qualify for the majority of our academic merit awards, even if they decide to enroll closer to the start of the semester.”

Utah Tech University doesn’t require an enrollment deposit, so the delays haven’t immediately impacted applicants there. But, its staff is following the FAFSA process closely to best serve students, Jyl Hall, director of public relations said.

Same with Weber State University, which doesn’t have such deadlines or deposits, Rachel Badali, news coordinator for the school said in a statement.

“We know it’s so important for students to have clear information on their costs, and we’re hopeful we can start getting financial aid packages ready in early May,” Badali said.

Utah News Dispatch is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news source covering government, policy and the issues most impacting the lives of Utahns.


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