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Some Northeast Ohio colleges, universities push back deadlines due to federal financial aid troubles

People walk past the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center at Kent State University's main campus.
Eman Abu-Khaled
Ideastream Public Media
People walk past the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center at Kent State University's main campus. Kent State is among schools in Northeast Ohio that have pushed back commitment deadlines for students.

Some Northeast Ohio universities and colleges are pushing back deadlines for students to commit to the schools and changing other ways they handle enrollment for next semester amid ongoing troubles with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

As a result of those troubles, Kent State University and Youngstown State University both will be pushing back the final day they’ll allow students to commit to attending, from May 1 to June 1.

Prospective and current students of colleges and universities across the country have had to contend with repeated delays with the FAFSA application since last year, as a result of a major overhaul from the U.S. Department of Education. Normally available in October, the application was only available for intermittent periods until January, when it was rolled out in full. The department says it won’t be sending students’ FAFSA data to schools until the first half of March, NPR reported earlier this month, as opposed to late January. FAFSA is the main gateway to federal financial aid for students.

Kent State, Youngstown State and the University of Akron all said in statements shared with Ideastream Public Media that they’ve pushed back their “priority submission” deadlines, meant to give priority in admissions to students who apply early.

The University of Akron on its admissions website said it “recognizes that this situation is frustrating,” but encouraged all potential students to still fill the application out.

“UA will begin sending financial aid offers to new students as soon as possible once FAFSA results are received,” it wrote. “Based on the Department of Education’s current timeline, we anticipate financial aid offers to be mailed to new students in April, and to begin awarding aid to continuing students in May.”

Cleveland State University spokesperson Reena Arora-Sánchez said that CSU is not changing anything “as of now,” but encouraged students to fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible.

Baldwin Wallace University said in a Feb. 13 statement that it's extending its "priority deposit deadline" from May 1 to June 15 - which refers to priority granted to students who put a deposit down early, for things like students housing or course slots.

"We are working hard to communicate with and support families who are waiting for official financial offers to make a final college choice," spokesperson Shawn Salamone said.

Case Western Reserve University’s enrollment management department said that, like other “selective private colleges,” it uses a different form to collect financial information from prospective students, so the university feels like it’s got a better estimate of the need students will have.

“We recognize that while students may have a financial-aid award from CWRU, they may be awaiting other financial-aid awards in April, May or even later,” the statement reads. “We have not made a decision to move our May 1 reply deadline at this time as we don't feel we have solid information from the U.S. Department of Education. We'll continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments based on the best information available to us.”

Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.