Feb 2, 2010

CSS PROFILE Experiences Severe Slowdowns and Intermittent Outages

According to a report from Inside Higher Ed, the College Board’s CSS Financial Aid PROFILE, an online application system used by many private colleges and universities, experienced periods of “severe slowdowns and some ‘intermittent outages’" on January 31st—the day before the February filing deadline used by a large number of schools. This report confirms complaints documented by students chatting on College Confidential starting late Sunday afternoon.

“Yeah, I was about to submit, then it says that my session has expired,” complained one student. “I haven’t been able to get back on ever since.”

The College Board and other online application systems routinely warn students not to wait until the last minute to file. It’s not unusual, however, for servers to go down and systems to clog as procrastinators rush to make deadlines.

A spokeswoman for the College Board said that the PROFILE system experienced “extraordinarily high volumes” because of the February 1st deadline and a “higher than anticipated international student response.” The College Confidential website exploded with complaints starting about 5:00 p.m., which were largely resolved by midnight according to Inside Higher Ed.

The College Board assures students and their families that information entered prior to the outage “should have been stored” and will be available when users returned to the system. Nevertheless, applicants might check with individual financial aid offices to ensure that materials were received and are complete.

As a safety precaution, colleges and universities were notified of the problem and were asked to be “flexible” about February 1st deadlines. The College Board will eventually suspend operations and correct underlying problems some time after the rush subsides.

As deadlines continue to approach for submitting financial aid documents—both the CSS PROFILE and the FAFSA—students should be warned that systems do fail on occasion. To avoid the headache, plan to file early and during off-peak hours. Note that the next big financial aid deadline is February 15th.

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