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The Daily Tar Heel

University extends enrollment deadline to May 15 due to FAFSA delays

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Students walk past Wilson Library on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021, two days before the first day of classes. The University returned to primarily in-person instruction for the fall semester.

This year, UNC has extended its enrollment deadline for the incoming class of 2028 from May 1 to May 15 due to delays in receiving records from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. 

The FAFSA, an application completed by prospective college students annually to determine if they will receive federal aid based on financial need and eligibility, was redesigned for the 2024-25 school year by the U.S. Department of Education.  Usually released Oct. 1, this year the form was released on Dec. 30.

“We just want families and students to have more time,” Vice Provost for Enrollment Rachelle Feldman said

Changes to the form include a new formula to calculate need-based aid and a modified financial aid form with approximately 36 questions — less than the 118 questions of previous years. 

However, Feldman said the new FAFSA application has run into several “snags” this year. 

Feldman said the University only began receiving Institutional Student Information Records, federal documents generated using FAFSA data to help determine financial aid eligibility, in March. She said many of this year's ISIR documents contained inaccuracies in financial aid data and discrepancies between different softwares. 

Current FAFSA applicants must also use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to directly transfer their tax return data into the form. Feldman said students who have a parent without a Social Security number have especially had trouble using the tool to complete their FAFSA. 

“We did not feel like we had confidence that everyone would be in a position where they had a solid aid offer, that they could make a decision in enough time to decide by May 1 whether or not to attend UNC,” Feldman said

UNC junior Suzanne Tyler said one of the major reasons she was able to attend UNC was because she did not have to take out any loans in her financial aid package, which was offered through the Carolina Covenant Scholarship. 

To be eligible for the Carolina Covenant, students receiving aid must come from families with an income not exceeding 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines and who meet additional economic criteria. Students are considered for the scholarship through the University’s general financial aid application process, which includes completing the FAFSA. 

While the FAFSA application had been more tedious in previous years, Tyler said this year’s application was easier to complete.

Isaac Hwang, a UNC junior and member of the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid’s Student Advisory Council, said filling out the application was somewhat confusing the first time he completed it. 

Hwang, who is from Georgia, said he is mainly involved with outreach on the council. He said he attends meetings at high schools in the Triangle area to discuss college finances and answer questions from a student perspective. 

“I don't necessarily know if I would be here without financial aid, because it's a little bit expensive as an out-of-state student,” Hwang said. “It's helped me with my lab work and get lab experience as a work-study student.”

Feldman said the University is still committed to meeting students’ full financial need through initiatives like the Carolina Covenant and UNC’s coverage of tuition and mandatory fees for in-state undergraduates from families with an income under $80,000 per year. 

Tyler said if UNC had not extended the enrollment deadline, the University may have been unable to enroll students who otherwise would have been able to attend. She said through scholarships and financial opportunities, some students are given an opportunity to have a college experience with reduced financial stress. 

“I think [UNC] owes that to their students in a way — for them to be able to have their financial packages in hand so they can make their college decisions,” Tyler said.

The U.S. Department of Education press office did not respond to The Daily Tar Heel's request for comment before the time of publication. 

@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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