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Ed Department error may delay student financial aid further

LA Johnson

There is yet another delay for prospective and current college students awaiting financial aid award letters. On Friday, the Education Department announced an error in its calculations for federal student aid that will result in delays for as many as 200,000 applicants.

The financial aid process for students is already about three months behind schedule. It was initially delayed due to a slow rollout of the new, simplified Free Application for Federal Student Aid released this year. It was further delayed when the department's calculations failed to take inflation into account.

Any student who receives financial aid has to fill out the form every year. Colleges use financial data from the FAFSA to determine how much to award a student in scholarships and grants. They run the numbers on their students every year, so it's not only prospective students who are playing the waiting game.

But some students are waiting longer than others – the recent error impacts dependent students with assets. The department says their forms will be re-processed and sent back to colleges at a later date.

This latest error comes about two weeks after colleges finally started to receive financial data from the Education Department. Although many schools were receiving exceedingly low numbers of FAFSA applications, the offices were able to start looking at the data. In their announcementthe department urged financial aid offices to continue to process all other applications, so schools can get aid packages to students as soon as possible

Edited by: Lauren Migaki contributed to this story

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Sequoia Carrillo is an assistant editor for NPR's Education Team. Along with writing, producing, and reporting for the team, she manages the Student Podcast Challenge.