ED Revisiting Prior Guidance on Release of FAFSA Information

By Karen McCarthy, NASFAA Policy & Federal Relations Staff

The Department of Education's Privacy and Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) is reviewing its prior guidance to NASFAA that FAFSA data cannot be released by the institution unless the release is for one of the specific purposes permitted by law, even with the student’s written authorization. It is unknown when new guidance, or confirmation of prior guidance, will be released.

Section 483(a)(3)(E) of the Higher Education Act specifies that FAFSA data, which includes information related to expected family contributions (EFCs) and awards, “shall be used only for the application, award, and administration of aid awarded under federal student aid programs, state aid, or aid awarded by eligible institutions or such entities as the Department may designate.”

While preparing the update of NASFAA’s 2016 white paper on financial aid data sharing, PTAC staff informed NASFAA that personally-identifiable data releases of FAFSA information for purposes other than those authorized in the law would not be permitted, even with the student’s authorization. The student must provide the data directly to the requesting party.

This guidance was incorporated into NASFAA’s June 2017 "Financial Aid Data Sharing" paper.

Following publication of the paper and a related interest session at the NASFAA conference in late-June, various parties raised concerns about this guidance, as it would disrupt longstanding and widespread practices between schools and outside entities, such as private scholarship providers.

NASFAA staff have contacted PTAC staff, who have agreed to re-evaluate their initial interpretation of the HEA. While they have not provided a timeline for their review, they are aware of the impact of this uncertainty on the financial aid community. Stay tuned for Today’s News for further updates.

 

Publication Date: 8/15/2017


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