Financial Aid

Hello from the Other Side of ISIRs

If you cued up “Under Pressure” to play at a financial aid conference right now, the audience might laugh, cry, or—more likely—both.

The launch of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) moved from its typical October 1 opening to a “soft launch” at the end of December 2023, with the application more consistently available later in January 2024. Known by aid offices as ISIRs, student FAFSA data, which schools historically receive within just a few days of a student submitting the application, wasn’t ready to begin knock, knock, knocking on campus doors until mid-March. Once received, colleges shared that initial files were limited to a few records and files contained unexpected errors.

These challenges with FAFSA have presented hurdles for software providers, affecting financial aid management systems like PowerFAIDS™. Financial aid software systems rely on specifications and test records from the Department of Education (ED) to produce functionality that aid professionals need to deliver on their student access mission. Most years, providers would have seen two versions of specifications—an initial and a final draft. But this year’s guidelines have been one, two, three, four, tell me there won’t be any more—all the way to up seven federal specification versions so far. 

Software systems have struggled to pivot quickly enough to meet new specs, new guidance, missing data, the list goes on, to deliver functionality so colleges can move forward. But in late March, College Board’s PowerFAIDS community received the third PowerFAIDS software update since the system went live to support FAFSA data delivery in January. With these updates in place, PowerFAIDS schools are now swinging from the proverbial chandelier to load ISIR files, move forward with aid processing, and in many cases create student financial aid offers.

When the 8 test ISIRs were finally shared with schools, our aid office screamed with joy when the files successfully loaded into PowerFAIDS.

PowerFAIDS institution

One key factor that gives PowerFAIDS moves like Jagger is its focus on financial aid. Even in an average year, financial aid—constrained by meeting federal compliance requirements, on-campus enrollment targets, budgetary demands, and more—can make things complicated. And the PowerFAIDS team knows this because they’ve navigated these complications.

The PowerFAIDS team at College Board packs a powerhouse of aid expertise, with over 450 collective years of experience in financial aid management and higher education. Just like the institutions they serve, PowerFAIDS experts have led financial aid at all levels—operations, enrollment management, compliance, IT, and policy. Their experiences across the higher ed spectrum, from large public research universities to community colleges, ensure the team knows exactly how to deliver on both compliance and efficiency.

And it’s really the students—ensuring the kids are alright—that continues to push the PowerFAIDS team to deliver the best-in-class financial aid software to support the work of financial aid offices across the country in this time of historic change. The mission of creating access to higher ed lives at the backbone of all financial aid professionals. They know how crucial a financial aid package can be to a family’s decision to pursue a college education. 

College Board remains committed to serving institutions and their aid offices through this turbulent year of FAFSA-related change until we break on through to the other side and a new year to support students and families through their higher ed journey. To stay up-to-date on our financial programs and services, including PowerFAIDS, CSS Profile, and Net Price Calculator, visit