NASFAA Develops New Case Studies on Expanded FAFSA Data Sharing

By Jill Desjean, NASFAA Policy & Federal Relations Staff

To assist its members, NASFAA has developed several new case studies to reflect the expanded data-sharing authority granted in September 2018 as part of the fiscal year (FY) 2019 spending package for defense, labor, health, and education programs.

In its updated 2017 white paper, NASFAA incorporated January 2017 guidance from the Department of Education’s (ED) Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), which stated that FAFSA data cannot be released by an institution unless the release is for one of the specific purposes permitted by law, even with the student's written authorization. The language in the Higher Education Act (HEA) that is the basis of the PTAC guidance, HEA 483(a)(3)(E), requires that FAFSA data only be used for purposes of the application, award, or administration of federal, state, or institutional aid, or aid awarded by other entities as designated by ED.

Later, in March 2018, the FY 2018 omnibus spending bill expanded data-sharing authority by adding to the statute that an institution may, with explicit written consent from the student, share FAFSA information with scholarship-granting organizations or tribal organizations to assist the applicant in applying for and/or receiving financial assistance. Other potential uses of FAFSA data, such as eligibility determinations for state benefits programs, were not addressed in the bill.

The new case studies come in response to further expanded data-sharing authority granted in September 2018 in the FY 2019 spending bill. There, data-sharing language is further expanded to allow an institution to share FAFSA data—with the student's written consent—with an organization "assisting the applicant in applying for and receiving Federal, State, local, or tribal assistance that is designated by the applicant to assist the applicant in applying for and receiving financial assistance for any component of the applicant's cost of attendance." The new case scenarios address situations that are relevant to the new data-sharing authority. NASFAA’s data-sharing decision tree was also updated in January 2019 to incorporate the latest data-sharing authority.

NASFAA’s white paper “Financial Aid Data Sharing” will be fully updated in the coming months.

NASFAA has advocated heavily over the past several years for a solution to the FAFSA data-sharing issue, and most recently supported the inclusion of this provision in its July letter to congressional appropriations leaders.


Publication Date: 2/7/2019

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