Irretrievable Aid Data

"Six days after the Internal Revenue Service's data retrieval tool for the federal financial aid system went down, the Department of Education and IRS said Thursday they anticipate the tool will be unavailable for several more weeks," Inside Higher Ed reports.

"The ongoing issue is causing consternation among organizations that advocate for expanded college access, because it will make applying for financial aid more difficult for low-income students and could lead to more verification checks of aid applications.

The data retrieval tool was introduced in the 2010-11 academic year to allow students and families to automatically transfer tax information already on file with the government into the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. That capability allowed them to finish the application sooner and avoid errors that would get submissions flagged for verification -- a process that could slow down the awarding of financial aid packages.

But the joint statement from the agencies said the IRS decided to temporarily suspend the tool as a precautionary step because of concerns it could be misused by identity thieves.

... The prolonged problem with the tool has arisen during a financial aid cycle in which the Department of Education is transitioning to use of prior-prior year income data. That means that instead of having to estimate their family’s income information for 2016, students applying under 2017 financial aid deadlines could use 2015 tax information already on file with the federal government.

That change to prior-prior year was planned assuming the data retrieval tool would be available to students as they completed the aid application process, said Justin Draeger, president and CEO of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. Meanwhile, the department has not been transparent in updating its verification criteria, he said.

If the problem persists, Draeger said NASFAA would ask the department to revisit its selection criteria for verification and ask for relief for students in the documentation they’re required to provide in that process.

'If this is a long-term issue, we will be looking for solutions that match the reality of no data retrieval tool,' Draeger said."

NASFAA's "Headlines" section highlights media coverage of financial aid to help members stay up to date with the latest news. Inclusion in Today's News does not imply endorsement of the material or guarantee the accuracy of information presented.


Publication Date: 3/10/2017

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