Hispanic College Students at a Campus
Secretary Miguel Cardona vowed a “full-scale review" of FSA’s management, staffing, workflow structures, business processes, and operations. Unsplash.com/Alexis Brown

The Department of Education announced a series of measures to enhance operations at its Federal Student Aid office following months of delays and other problems linked to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The FAFSA form, which experienced several technical difficulties since its rollout, caused disruptions in decision timelines for both current and prospective college students, as well as schools across the country.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona sent a letter to all Department staff members saying the agency was conducting a "full-scale review of FSA's current and historical organization, management, staffing, workflow structures, business processes, and operations."

"For half a century, Federal Student Aid (FSA) has helped millions of Americans access higher education. Today, FSA maintains the same mission. But like any organization, its methods and scope of work have changed dramatically over time, and the environment where it now operates is continuously evolving," he wrote.

Among the key announcements included in the letter, Cardona said that the agency has tapped Denise Carter, the acting assistant secretary for finance and operations, to run the FSA while it searches for a new leader.

"Carter brings more than three decades of experience managing complex, multifaceted organizational components with rigor, dedication, and efficiency. She understands the importance of immediate-term improvements to FSA's execution and management and is already taking steps to tighten processes for FSA projects and programs," Cardona said.

The letter also announces that the Education Department has hired an independent consulting firm to make recommendations on ways to improve the design, structure, and processes within FSA, with a focus on building an updated organizational structure and workflow. The firm would be the Boston Consulting Group, an agency spokesperson told NBC News.

The Department will also create a new IT innovation team empowered to lead information technology design to support the digital transformation of the organization, as per the letter. This new team will be oriented to overseeing the recruitment of top engineers, project managers, and designers who will bring critical information technology expertise and experience to strengthen FSA's work in this area.

"Over the last three years, the Department and FSA have made great strides in making sure federal financial aid is put in the hands of students. We have also taken unprecedented steps to protect borrowers from servicing errors while holding servicers accountable," Cardosa also wrote.

"However, changes are needed to make sure students, borrowers, and families have a better user experience with FSA, and we can achieve better outcomes for the millions of people we serve."

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, has been one of the main ways for students in the United States to afford college for many decades. From work study to student loans and Pell grants, FAFSA gives students financial aid based on their academic performance, family taxes, and income, among other factors.

The form is notoriously difficult to fill out. Specific questions about family finances, coupled with overly technical terminology, have been topics of debate within the federal government.

This year, after months-long delays, they were able to enter the portal Dec. 31. The delays are likely to affect students from low-income backgrounds and students of color the most.

In his letter, Cardona vows to conduct listening sessions with community organizations to continue the Department's "robust outreach efforts to parents, students, colleges, and community organizations that have been critical partners in boosting FAFSA submissions and troubleshooting applications at a grassroots level."

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