Georgia colleges extend enrollment deadlines after financial aid delays

Georgia Tech is among the schools extending its enrollment deposit deadline for Georgia high school students and in-state residents amid federal financial aid processing delays. (Arvin Temkar / AJC file photo)



Georgia Tech is among the schools extending its enrollment deposit deadline for Georgia high school students and in-state residents amid federal financial aid processing delays. (Arvin Temkar / AJC file photo)

Several Georgia colleges are pushing back enrollment deadlines to give high school seniors more time to decide where they want to go to school.

Many schools require incoming first-year students to make an enrollment deposit and secure their spot for the fall on or around May 1. But this year, some are pushing back the traditional deadline because of delays with the federal Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

As colleges release admissions decisions this month, they’re still waiting for the U.S. Department of Education to send them student information so they can prepare financial aid offers that applicants need to compare the cost of different schools.

The state’s three most selective public schools — the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and Georgia College & State University — recently announced they’ll give Georgia residents until May 15 to submit their commitment deposit. The deadline for out-of-state applicants remains May 1 at all three schools.

The “incredibly bumpy” FAFSA rollout will likely leave students at many schools feeling rushed, said John Leach, Emory University’s associate vice provost for enrollment and financial aid.

But Emory doesn’t plan to postpone its May 1 enrollment deposit deadline because it’s among a couple of hundred schools that use a different application tool, offered by the College Board, to prepare need-based aid offers. Emory is able to process financial aid information for undergraduate applicants, even though it had received FAFSA information for only about 20 students by Friday.

Emory, Georgia’s largest private university, typically would have information for thousands of students by this point, Leach said.

“This compressed timeline, it really is a dumpster fire,” Leach said.

Leach said Emory will work with individual students who need more time to commit because those students are still waiting for information from other schools. He said students applying to Emory’s graduate and professional schools have seen a bigger impact due to the FAFSA delays.

Augusta University extended its deadline to June 1 for all students.

Agnes Scott College, the private school for women in Decatur, will move its enrollment deposit deadline to May 15. As of Monday morning, the college hadn’t gotten financial aid data yet from the Education Department.

Georgia State University, which has the largest enrollment of any school in Georgia, will move its commitment deadline for the Honors College and Centennial Merit Scholarship to May 15. Kennesaw State University bumped back its FAFSA completion priority deadline, the date by which students should submit information to have the opportunity to receive the most money, from March 1 to April 15. A spokeswoman for Spelman College in Atlanta said the school is waiting to see when it receives FAFSA data before changing its enrollment deadline.

UGA on Monday announced it accepted about 15,900 of the more than 43,000 students who applied to enroll this upcoming fall. Just over 20,000 applications came from in-state students. In a typical year, admitted students also would receive their financial aid offers in March, but this year that information may not be available until May, UGA said.

“We are monitoring the situation and trying to be flexible so students, particularly those from low-income and first-generation backgrounds, can make sound decisions about college opportunities,” said Andy Borst, UGA’s vice provost for enrollment management, in a written statement.

Georgia Tech Provost Steve McLaughlin said the extension will help students who “need a full financial picture to make such an important life decision.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona sent a letter Friday to university leaders across the nation urging them to push back decision and payment deadlines. Cardona said the agency is “ramping up” the number of student records it is sending to schools.

The Education Department revamped the FAFSA in an effort to simplify it and make more low-income students eligible for federal aid. Students usually can start filling out the form in October, but the overhauled application didn’t launch until late December. Delays were exacerbated when the Education Department updated calculations to account for inflation.

The Education Department said in late January it would begin to transmit FAFSA data to schools “in the first half of March.”