Advocacy quick hits: ED sends out first batch of ISIRs

Photo: AACC

The U.S. Education Department (ED) this week issued an electronic announcement (EA) containing several updates on the 2024-25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

First, ED announced a long-awaited fix allowing students with parents or contributors without a Social Security number (SSN) to complete their FAFSA electronically. Since the new FAFSA launched in late December, there have been several glitches and technical challenges, including one that has prevented contributors without an SSN from starting or accessing the FAFSA form. The American Association of Community Colleges and other members of the higher education community have continually raised this issue as ED has worked to make technical corrections to the form and user experience over the past three months.

These students should now be able to complete the form electronically and have the same user experience as other students and contributors, with a few bugs that still need to be fixed. First, matching will require the exact entry of all Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to be processed. Second, the online form will not be able to retrieve federal tax data for contributors without an SSN and will instead require them to enter this information manually – undercutting one of the key improvements of the new FAFSA process. ED is working to address these issues.

In the meantime, colleges are encouraged to reach out to students and families who have not been able to complete the form due to these issues, including those who submitted a FAFSA using a previously announced temporary workaround. These students must now return to the form and add a contributor’s signature. If a student had filed a paper FAFSA to meet an institutional or state deadline in January or February, they should not file electronically to avoid overriding the paper application filing date.

For more information on how to best advise students with a contributor without an SSN, ED has published a new resource with tips on filing in both English and Spanish.

ISIRs begin to flow to colleges

In the same EA, the department announced that it is finally transmitting batches of Institutional Student Information Records (ISIRs) – the financial aid information colleges need to package financial aid offers – to schools starting on March 13. Most schools should expect to receive anywhere from one to dozens of ISIRs as ED ramps up the delivery of student records and works to clear the backlog that has developed since the form opened in December.

The department anticipates that it will take an additional two weeks to process submitted applications after delivery has been fully ramped up. Once the backlog is cleared, processing times will return to the normal three to five days for an online form.

Read more in this week’s Advocacy Quick Hits.

About the Author

Kathryn Gimborys
Kathryn Gimborys is a government relations manager at the American Association of Community Colleges.
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