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North Dakota Students Urged to Complete FAFSA Applications This Week

Submissions statewide down nearly 30% amid changes to federal form.

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North Dakota state agencies are urging high school students to turn in their FAFSA applications amid a roughly 30% drop in statewide applications to the federal financial assistance program compared to 2023.

The North Dakota University System, Bank of North Dakota, North Dakota Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, Department of Public Instruction and Governor’s Office have put together resources to encourage high school seniors across the finish line — including a new webpage on the Bank of North Dakota’s website.

To that end, Gov. Doug Burgum on Monday officially declared this week “Finish the FAFSA Week.”

The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the main way students access federal loans, grants and work-study funding to help with college tuition costs.

In December, the U.S. Department of Education introduced an updated version of the FAFSA — one the agency said would be easier than ever to apply to.

Brenda Zastoupil, director of financial aid for the North Dakota University System, called it the most significant change to the program in roughly 40 years. Implementation has been rocky, she said. Unforeseen snags in the application process have made it difficult for students to complete the FAFSA properly.

“That caused significant delays for not only the institutions to receive the FAFSA results, and then subsequently issue award letters to students, but it also obviously caused a delay for families to really understand and be fully transparent on what their awards will be for the upcoming fall semester,” Zastoupil said.

Those issues have coincided with a nationwide drop in FAFSA applications.

In North Dakota, about 27.8% fewer high school seniors had completed FAFSA applications as of April 12 compared to the same time a year ago, according to an analysis of Office of Federal Student Aid data by the National College Attainment Network.

Nationally, applications had fallen by 36% as of April 12 compared to last year, the nonprofit found.

Zastoupil said North Dakota institutions are worried about a drop-off of students who decide to postpone attending college because of all the tangles in the FAFSA process.

The Bank of North Dakota, the North Dakota University System, and a handful of North Dakota colleges and universities are offering extended hours Monday through Thursday to help students and families with applications. The bank will also host a webinar on the FAFSA on Tuesday from 7-8 p.m.

To view a list of the institutions’ office hours and contact info, and to register for the webinar, visit the Bank of North Dakota’s FAFSA website.

Mark Hagerott, chancellor of the North Dakota University System, said in a Monday announcement from the Governor’s Office that some North Dakota colleges and universities are moving back enrollment deadlines to accommodate delayed FAFSA applications.

While not everything with the application process has been fixed, Zastoupil encouraged students to get their FAFSAs done as soon as possible. Often, higher ed institutions only have a limited amount of financial aid per school year, she said.

“For instance, our office administers the North Dakota State Grant,” she said. “And that is a need-based grant, so we use FAFSA data, but it’s also limited so once our funds are exhausted, we wouldn’t be able to issue additional awards for students.”

North Dakota Monitor is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. North Dakota Monitor maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Amy Dalrymple for questions: info@northdakotamonitor.com. Follow North Dakota Monitor on Facebook and Twitter.

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