ED Identifies Technical Issue Related to ISIR Processing

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Senior Staff Reporter

The Department of Education (ED) in an electronic announcement on Friday identified a miscalculation in the 2024-25 Student Aid Index (SAI) formula that could create more student aid packaging delays, the latest in a series of challenges in the rollout of the overhauled FAFSA.

Specifically, ED found inaccuracies in how student assets are factored into the calculation of dependent students with ISIRs “delivered to FTI-SAIG mailboxes prior to March 21, 2024.” Due to this miscalculation, ED will eventually need to reprocess ISIR records for several hundred thousand students — approximately 200,000 — and resend that information to schools.

“This is another unforced error that will likely cause more processing delays for students,” said NASFAA President and CEO Justin Draeger. “At this stage in the game and after so many delays, every error adds up and will be felt acutely by every student who is counting on need-based financial aid to make their postsecondary dreams a reality. As of today, we do not know when the Department is planning on reprocessing these applications.”

The department said the issue has been resolved for all ISIRs delivered on and after March 21, 2024. ISIRs for dependent students with assets that were delivered prior to March 21 will be reprocessed by ED, but ED has not provided a date schools should expect those reprocessed ISIRs. The department recommends that as an interim fix, schools and states can recalculate the SAI themselves and use those to develop tentative aid packages while they wait to receive reprocessed ISIRs.

“This issue should not prevent schools from processing ISIRs and preparing aid packages, and only affects ISIRs delivered prior to March 21, 2024,” the department wrote. “To date, we have delivered over 1.3 million ISIRs to schools that are NOT affected by this issue, and schools can process those records as planned.” 

Draeger added in his statement that schools will “work in good faith with our federal colleagues” to deliver financial aid information to students as soon as possible.

“But let’s not make any mistake — schools can only work with valid and correct data that is provided to them from the U.S. Department of Education,” he said. “It is not feasible or realistic to send out incorrect FAFSA data and ask thousands of schools to make real-time calculations and adjustments to the federal formula on the school side.”

ED was clear in its announcement that the error is isolated to dependent students with assets and that schools can continue with processing as planned for students without assets whose ISIRs were delivered before March 21, as well as for all students whose ISIRs were delivered after March 21, when the issue was fixed.

ED also provided a new Technical FAQ and Known Issues Guide that seeks to address frequently asked questions about ISIRs for the 2024-25 FAFSA year.

Further, ED will hold a webinar on March 22 that will be made available on demand in the coming days, and pledged to provide further updates when needed.

ED also reminded schools who need technical assistance related to ISIR processing and packaging financial aid award letters to submit their requests to the College Concierge mailbox.


Publication Date: 3/22/2024

Melissa W | 3/25/2024 9:50:37 PM

I did not see Friday's webinar, as I was busy testing so that we can begin packaging. However, I saw Monday's webinar & in both webinars, the Department "reminded schools who need technical assistance related to ISIR processing and packaging financial aid award letters to submit their requests to the College Concierge mailbox." What they didn't mention is the administrative burden to add a third party servicer to your ECAR in order to get assistance. If you haven't made any changes to your E-App since it was overhauled in December, there's so much that needs to be updated just to add a third party servicer. I'm beginning to wonder if it's worth it!

Katrina L | 3/25/2024 3:4:12 PM

As we work with students and families who continue to struggle to get the FAFSA completed, we can now add to the list of things we need to get done manually calculating SAI and determining eligibility amounts for the Federal Pell Grant, never mind gainful employment and transparency reporting. I am incredibly hesitant to manually recalculate SAI as our students must know their eligibility before they start, and I need to know it is accurate. Manual calculations are not an acceptable solution.

Charles B | 3/25/2024 1:46:10 PM

Did ED did do any testing before sending ISIRs to schools? I noticed this error within 10 minutes of looking at the ISIRs we received. I can't even imagine how many other less obvious errors there are.

Yolanda T | 3/25/2024 11:56:31 AM

The more there are delays the more I feel the roll out should have been delayed for another full academic year, but it sounds like the formula calculations are not being updated correctly so no amount of time can correct that!

Helen G | 3/25/2024 10:38:56 AM

This snafu is yet another reason to delay FVT and GE reporting. Schools will still be working through ISIR issues and processing well into the 2024-25 award year and beyond.

Beth C | 3/25/2024 9:32:06 AM

So we need to identify the incorrect FAFSAs. and then reprocess them ourselves. Not an issue if our software vendors had been given adequate time to implement and test. Our release was just delivered on March 21. Now our IT team has to install and we have to test. THEN, we load FAFSAs to our system, identify the incorrect records and reprocess.

Sheree T | 3/25/2024 9:5:48 AM

Hypothetically, if schools were to recalculate need and send out a correction, the ISIR we get back should be accurate since it would be processed after March 21. Right?

Not that the schools should have to do that, but we have to work with the hand we're dealt since we are clearly not getting the one we want.

Jeff A | 3/25/2024 8:58:42 AM

ED keeps emphasizing ‘making offers’, i’e’ for some period that occurs later.
BUT, some of us have students starting their first academic year, and subsequent academic years in year-round calendars that start NOW and must include their 24-25 eligibility in their 2ne semester.
The bottom line is students ar enrolling and starting TODAY that have no idea with their actual financing for college will look like for their 2nd semester. Or they think they do but it will be ‘corrected’.
WTG……………….the admin burden is incredibly increased. But we make a mistake or don’t get GE reporting done in time, we are administratively incapable. TYVM.

Thomas K | 3/25/2024 8:49:00 AM

So when is someone going to get fired for this fiasco? Not in federal la, la land. Rule of thumb: Don't let the Department plan your wedding.

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