A Fumble on a Key Fafsa Tool, and a Failure to Communicate

"Applying for financial aid for college got a lot harder this month, in the thick of application season, but it took federal agencies nearly a week to explain what was happening," according to The New York Times' The Upshot.

"To get aid for college from the federal or state governments, as well as from colleges, students and their parents must fill out the Fafsa (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The notoriously complicated form, which is longer than the typical 1040, collects detailed information from students and families about income, expenses and taxes. On March 3, families logging onto the website for federal aid found that a key component of the online application had stopped functioning.

The broken element, known as the Data Retrieval Tool, automatically fills in a Fafsa application with information from an applicant’s tax return, via a data connection with the Internal Revenue Service. Without the tool, applicants have to transcribe tax information from their old returns or by ordering tax transcripts from the I.R.S. (which can take several weeks). ...

Fafsas completed without using the data tool are more likely to be chosen for 'verification,' an audit that requires applicants to submit additional paperwork to prove that their tax information is accurate. This further slows the process. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators has asked the Department of Education to scale back verification requirements given the demise of the data retrieval tool."

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: 3/14/2017

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