Chairwoman Foxx, Ranking Member Cassidy Urge GAO to Investigate FAFSA System Failures Amid Botched Rollout
WASHINGTON, D.C., February 7, 2024
WASHINGTON – Today, Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Ranking Member Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) urged the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate reported issues with the information technology (IT) system used by the U.S. Department of Education (DeptEd) in its botched rollout of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
In 2021, DeptEd announced that it would modernize and revamp its FAFSA IT system by December 2023, but FAFSA was only available to students for a mere 30 minutes on December 30th. DeptEd announced the next day that it had identified issues with the FAFSA IT system and would be initiating pauses to the website to conduct maintenance.
According to reports, the FAFSA IT system was available sporadically for only three hours from December 30th to January 2nd, and was not fully accessible for use until January 6th. Additionally, applicants reported multiple issues with the FAFSA website, including repeated loading screens, “Please Wait” pages, and errors with submitting the form.
Foxx and Cassidy seek information on if DeptEd properly tested the FAFSA IT system before it became available to students and the extent to which DeptEd knew about these issues before the rollout.
“Based on the initial poor user experience, we have significant questions about the extent to which the FAFSA Processing System underwent all needed testing, what system issues were uncovered in testing, and the decision-making process to roll out the system with known issues,” wrote the lawmakers. “Accordingly, we request that GAO review the recent launch of the FAFSA Processing System.”
At a recent press conference, Cassidy announced that following a bicameral request from Republican lawmakers, GAO has begun an investigation into DeptEd’s incompetent mishandling of FAFSA. Additionally, Cassidy wrote a Newsweek op-ed slamming the Biden administration’s botched FAFSA rollout and its severe impacts on students and families.
To report issues you have had with the FAFSA process, visit: www.help.senate.gov/FAFSA.
Read the full letter here.