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With May 1 decision deadline looming at many colleges, FAFSA delays persist

With May 1 decision deadline looming at many colleges, FAFSA delays persist
With May 1 decision deadline looming at many colleges, FAFSA delays persist 02:34

NEW YORK -- What should be an exciting time for students entering college is turning into a nightmare.

Many families still have not received word on how much federal student aid they qualify for and many schools have a May 1 deadline for students to accept offers.

They were last told that answer would come sometime in March.

CBS New York has more on the unprecedented delay and what's at stake.

With one month to go until the college decision deadline, the FAFSA website is telling Beth Pilchik to "check back for corrections in the coming weeks."

"You're asking someone to look at their future without having any of the information," Pilchik said.

Her son, Miles, a senior in high school in Manhattan, is one of millions in limbo. He has to choose from about a dozen college offers to fulfill his dream of studying game design.

"My son is more stressed than normal," Pilchik said. "Here we are trying to analyze the financials of what my son's future will be and it's hard to do so with the government saying, 'Wait, we'll get back to you.'"

FAFSA, which stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, was revamped last year to go from 100-plus questions to fewer than 40, but it wasn't made widely available until January, three months later than usual.

The U.S. Department of Education blames glitches for the delay.

"I have someone who is a babysitter. She has two jobs and she's waiting for her FAFSA and it's really [hard] watching her being stressed, going, 'Do I need to get a third job?'" Pilchik said.

FAFSA determines eligibility for Pell grants and federal student loans, and, in most cases, the aid provided by colleges as well.

"It also is putting the schools in an unfair advantage because they don't know how much money to give," Pilchik said.

Some worry students might not enroll at all. The National College Attainment Network says 31% fewer high school seniors have submitted the FAFSA, compared to this time last year.

Experts say low-income families are most impacted by this delay. That is why the Government Accountability Office has already opened two new investigations.

The American Council on Education wrote a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona late last week, saying, in part, "67%" of nearly 400 universities polled "do not believe they will be able to successfully process institutional student information records within a few weeks."

It says about half, like Rutgers University and Montclair State, have pushed back college decision deadlines from May 1 to June 1.

Pilchik said a FAFSA representative told her Friday to call back in April. On Monday morning, she'll be anxiously dialing again.

The Department of Education has said it's spending millions of dollars to deploy staff across the country to provide tech support to colleges.

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