Update from Mollie Ballaro on How to Navigate the ISIR Delay

Feb 29, 2024

Well, here we are.  

March is upon us, and much to our dismay, but not surprise, we still await the processing of student FAFSAs and receipt of ISIRs.  

Originally promised by the Education Department by February, now promised in mid-March. The ever-changing goalposts may still change again. With students’ decisions lying in the balance so are institutional budgets. The impact of these delays will be far reaching.  

So, what now? 

Many schools are finding themselves in familiar territory – needing to pivot. One of the many things my colleagues in higher education have experience with is pivoting. Lots of experience. Demographic cliffs, stock market plunges, record inflation, a pandemic – the last two decades proved to be nothing short of challenging. So we change course. We make do. We get creative. And we try not to panic. 

Make use of what is available. 

I recently learned my alma mater is providing financial aid estimates based on information input into the Net Price Calculator and earned institutional scholarships. Providing students and families with a place to start. Additionally, they are making the promise that when ISIRs come through, they will honor the higher of the two offered packages. I think this makes a powerful statement to prospective students. It also alleviates the stress of the unknown, both for students and the institution.

Communicate. Often. 

I continue to be surprised by the broad spectrum of awareness by students and parents on this topic. Some are quite aware and quite anxious about the delays, while others admit they have heard something about it but aren’t exactly sure what it means. And there are still others out there not familiar with the new FAFSA or the delays, or both. I believe this is a perfect and critical moment for admission teams to position themselves as a trusted advisor, resource, and representative of an institution that cares about the student on a personal basis.  

Brief, personalized counselor check-ins via text, voice mail, even email can be quite effective in building trust and social capital with prospective students and their families during this waiting period. Let them know what’s going on, how it affects them, and when to expect more news from you.

Continue to push FAFSA submission. 

Unfortunately, many students have yet to fill out the new FAFSA. News of the delays has some students thinking they have plenty of time to fill out the FAFSA. In their mind, nothing is happening yet, right? But we know the best thing they could do right now is fill out the FAFSA, so it is in the queue for processing. Students and parents need to be reminded to do this several times. 

Review personnel resources. 

When the FAFSAs are finally processed and financial aid teams can draw down the ISIRs, we know it’s going to be an all-hands-on deck kind of situation. More so than ever before. There will be elevated urgency for completion of financial aid packaging. Position your team for success by ensuring there is extra support to manage the volume and timeline. Are there tasks that can be temporarily reallocated to other staff members in the enrollment division to free up Financial Aid counselors to work on packaging? How best can you keep the team motivated and appreciated? A little planning while you wait can lead to long-term success. 

Hopefully the next 30 days give us what we are all hoping for – peace of mind, better weather, and ISIRs! Stay tuned to this blog for regular updates and suggestions.  

REMINDER TO CURRENT ENROLLMENT MARKETING PARTNERS: Liaison is here to help! Want to schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss strategy? Or how about a quick communication campaign to your students and parents? Contact me and I will connect you with our team.  

About Mollie Ballaro

Mollie Ballaro is an Enrollment Strategist with Liaison, bringing over 20 years of higher education experience with her. She served three private institutions in the Western New York area in senior leadership roles as a Chief Enrollment Officer, Dean of Admissions, and Director of Admissions before joining the Liaison team. Her extensive background includes oversight of financial aid, domestic and international admissions, enrollment management, and admissions marketing.

Mollie graduated from Canisius University with a Master of Science in Higher Education Student Affairs Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her family, and when there is the occasional free minute, Mollie continues to focus on her photography hobby.


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Over the last three decades, Liaison has helped over 40,000 programs on more than 1,200 campuses more effectively manage admissions through its Centralized Application Service (CAS™) technology and complementary application processing and support services. The higher education technology leader supports its partner institutions’ total enrollment goals by pairing CAS with its Enrollment Marketing (EM) platform as well as the recently acquired TargetX (CRM) and advanced analytics software Othot.