Empty Class by Nathan Dumlao is licensed under Unsplash

Under the Biden administration, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) program has faced significant delays, creating a chaotic landscape for prospective college students and their families. The 2024-2025 academic year rollout saw a massive delays after the Department of Education announced a miscalculation in the formula for calculating student need.

This disruption is not an isolated incident, but rather part of a broader pattern of disorganization and incompetence within the current administration. From IRS overreach to mishandling COVID-19 relief, the Biden administration has repeatedly demonstrated an inability to manage federal operations effectively. Such consistent slip-ups by our ever expanding executive agencies should make every voter uneasy with increasing our reliance on unaccountable agencies.

Whether a product of incompetence or maliciousness, these systemic failures underscore the urgent need for reduced federal involvement and increased accountability to ensure that such debacles do not continue to impede American citizens.

FAFSA is an online form administered by the Department of Education and completed by current and prospective college students in the US to determine their eligibility for financial aid. The FAFSA Simplification Act introduced several key changes for the 2024-25 award year, most notably updating the formula used to calculate financial need.

This change in internal calculation for FAFSA resulted in an error that invalidated most completed forms before March 21st, causing widespread confusion and disruption. The FAFSA processing system did not account correctly for the historic inflation seen under Biden’s presidency when transitioning to the new formula. FAFSA was already on a stretched launch timeline, releasing on December 30th instead of the intended October 1st release date.

The impact of these delays is profound. In a recent open letter to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, 25 organizations representing higher education associations urged the agency to commit to the traditional FAFSA launch date of October 1st for next year’s cycle.

The letter highlighted that this year’s delays resulted in a 13.5% decline in form completion. This decline is more than double the drop seen during the pandemic and is directly correlated with a decrease in college enrollment. Prospective students facing delays are more likely to abandon the college admission process altogether, as schools cannot provide timely financial aid estimates, making it difficult for families to plan and make significant life decisions.

The FAFSA delays are no isolated incident, but part of a broader pattern of bureaucratic mismanagement within the Biden administration. The administration’s handling of various federal operations has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of efficiency and accountability, leading to widespread frustration and adverse outcomes.

Perhaps one of the most prominent examples is the administration’s policy to expand the IRS by $80 billion and 87,000 new agents. This move has been criticized for its potential to increase audits on middle-class families and small businesses rather than targeting wealthy taxpayers. This policy leads to an increase of at home visits for working families, giving even more power to a rouge agency let off the leash.

The IRS has a long operated with a lack of transparency. Some examples include the IRS destroying $30 million taxpayer documents, agents allegedly stealing taxpayer funds to purchase luxury handbags, and the agency failing to address over 2,000 security vulnerabilities in child tax credit after Biden’s American Rescue Plan in 2021.

Back in May, a Wall Street Journal column details how the IRS stole over 50,000 – 70,000 individual and business tax files. Even when congress attempts to reign these bureaucrats in, these agencies routinely fail to police themselves. The IRS in defiance of congress has failed to complete an annual report on methods to reduce tax complexity for the last 20 years.

Another historic failure was the management of COVID-19 relief programs. President Biden used the pandemic as an opportunity to pass historic spending increases for financial relief. The distribution of relief funds however was plagued by delays and scandals. According to the House Oversight Committee Chairman, $163 billion in funds was either stolen or gone missing.  To this day, there has been no accountability for the billions in missing funds.

With the current FAFSA delays, the Department of Education’s has exhibited a similar pattern of a lack in accountability and transparency. In May, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona was questioned over the FAFSA delays on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) pushed Secretary Cardona to take accountability for the blunder. Cardona responded, “Yes, we have had significant delays that we’re working tirelessly to correct,” admitting to the error while downplaying its scale. Richard Cordray, a close Elizebeth Warren alley who heads the Office of Federal Student Aid recently announced he would step down amid criticism as well.

Additionally, the Department of Education has also decided not to open next year’s FAFSA for public comment, claiming that “similar to previous years when we have not had major shifts in functionality, the 2025–26 form will not be made available for public comment.” This lack of transparency has further worried stakeholders.

After such a chaotic year for FAFSA, many have been bewildered by this attempt to brush the significance of these delays under the rug. Jill Desjean, senior policy analyst for NASFAA, a signatory organization of the open letter, stated, “given the magnitude of the changes this year, I think people would have appreciated the time to comment.”

In response to the FAFSA delay issue, the Department of Education announced a $50 million program aimed at boosting completion rates for the next year. This funding fails to tackle the underlying technical and administrative issues that caused the delays in the first place.

This approach reflects a broader pattern of misplaced priorities within the executive branch. The solution to bureaucratic problems seems to always resort to throwing money at symptoms without resolving the core issues.

The persistent problems with the FAFSA rollout highlight a critical need for reducing federal government involvement in the education system. A more localized approach, with increased autonomy for states and educational institutions, could help mitigate these issues. By reducing federal control and allowing for more tailored, region-specific solutions, the education system could become more responsive and efficient. At the very least, it would prevent small mishaps in a regulatory office in DC to snowball into real harm for students around the country.

Only by significantly reducing federal control over our education system can we prevent debacles like FAFSA delays in the future.