Student aid tool still down

The House and Senate education committees have asked U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to help students affected by the on-going outage of an IRS data retrieval tool designed to make the student aid application easier and more accurate.

The tool went down unexpectedly earlier this month, with the Education Department and IRS issuing a joint press release on March 9 saying that the temporary suspension was “a precautionary step following concerns that information from the tool could potentially be misused by identity thieves.” Many families use the tool to pull their federal income data to include on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is used to determine student aid eligibility.

“Protecting taxpayer and student privacy is vitally important, and we are concerned about any potential attempts to misuse sensitive information. However, we also are concerned about the students and families who will not be able to use the tool for weeks,” according to the letter from committee members to DeVos.

Applicants have other options to access that information, but the outage has created additional burdens for them and could delay their ability to receive not only federal aid, but also state and institution aid, according to education advocates. Texas and Indiana already have announced they would move back their priority aid deadlines.

House and Senate leaders also requested that the department take several specific steps to help make students, families, borrowers, student loan servicers and institutions of higher education aware of the outage and advise them on navigating the process while the tool is unavailable.

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