Unintended Consequences

"Jennifer Buckles, the director of financial aid at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, has seen about 2 percent of federal student aid applications filed this academic year by returning and incoming students at the campus flagged for changes in income data already filed with the federal government," according to Inside Higher Ed.

"It’s a small number, but with more than 14,000 copies of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid filed by the university's students so far, that means several hundred financial aid flags that her department must sort through. And with many returning students having yet to file an updated financial aid application, Buckles's office could be staring down even more of those flags. ...

The new flag creating the additional work at many campuses -- known as Code 399 among financial aid administrators -- pops up when there is a change in the income data previously filed by a student's family with the federal government, possibly as a result of something like an amended tax return. The college or university must determine if the flag is valid and, if necessary, adjust the amount of a student's financial aid award based on the updated income information.

Justin Draeger, president and CEO of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Advisors, said the problem wasn't unexpected and it shouldn't continue beyond the current financial aid cycle. But that doesn't mean it hasn't become burdensome for many financial aid administrators this year.

'For some schools, it seems to be overwhelming,' he said. 'For other schools, we're hearing it's a pain, it's a nuisance, but they're able to work through it.'

It's likely to be particularly troublesome for colleges and universities serving a high number of low-income students eligible for Pell Grants.

'This is a recurring theme in higher ed where sometimes the schools serving the highest-need students are also the least-resourced schools and struggle to keep up with these kinds of changes,' 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: 1/4/2017

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