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FAFSA Delays Impact Higher Ed, New District Reporting Requirements, and Teacher Burnout

FAFSA Delays Impact Financial Aid Offers from Colleges

Happy New Year! At the start of 2024, a delay in the release of the US Department of Education's new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form is causing a crunch for colleges seeking to make financial aid offers to students. As CNBC explains, the newly simplified FAFSA form was supposed to be available before January 1, 2024. USA Today says that USEd officially "soft" launched the document on December 30th—meaning the form has only been available periodically so that the government can respond to potential problems. It was available for thirty minutes on December 30th, thirty minutes on December 31st and two hours on January 1st. According to Inside Higher Ed, even those students who were able to access the form often encountered glitches that prevented completion.

The delay could also impact the bottom line for higher education institutions, as they go through admissions processes without access to accurate numbers for student aid.

The new FAFSA form uses a "Student Aid Index" to estimate a family's ability to pay—with a goal of increasing access to federal grants among low- and moderate-income students. The form also eliminates a "sibling discount," which formerly gave a break to families with multiple students simultaneously enrolled in college. The federal deadline to submit the 2024-25 FAFSA will be June 30, 2025.

New District Reporting Requirements Take Effect Next Month

Passed in the 2023 legislative session, PA 23-167 (among several new policies) requires the State Department of Education to publish each school district’s receipts, expenditures, and statistics for the previous fiscal year—beginning on February 15, 2024. Starting next year, the data must also be provided in a format that allows for comparisons between school districts and schools. It’s an exciting change for those concerned with both accountability and resource equity in public education.

The change is a part of Senate Bill 1 in 2023, An Act Concerning Transparency in Education, which dealt with some of the biggest education issues in the state. Throwback to Jessika Harkay's analysis of that bill here.

Teacher Burnout Varies Across Districts

Over the holiday break, two articles from the CT Post captured different sides of the story regarding teacher burnout and stress. A New Years Eve article unpacked how the instructional time for teachers varies greatly across districts. In Stamford, where high school teachers currently teach five classes per semester, a new proposal would have them teach six classes, totaling 264 minutes of teaching daily. That's as compared to districts like Danbury (182 minutes of instructional time), Norwalk (225), Bridgeport (246), and Hamden (230). Class size is another factor impacting the workload for teachers in disparate ways across town lines.

However—despite ongoing stories about teacher burnout, stress, and shortages—a Christmas-day article demonstrated how many new and prospective teachers are staying committed to their career paths. Commenting on why teachers leave the profession, and conversely why they stay, Alyssa Dunn from the UConn Neag School of Education noted that, "The kids remind them why they got into the profession in the first place."


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