Advocacy quick hits: This week’s FAFSA update

Photo: AACC

The U.S. Education Department (ED) announced this week that it has completed FAFSAs (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) for forms impacted by known issues.

As a reminder, ED previously announced that 30% of received applications – roughly two million students – would need to be recalculated and retransmitted to colleges due to vendor errors and tax data issues. While the department acknowledged that some outlier applications may still need to be reprocessed due to one-off errors, colleges should have now received accurate Institutional Student Information Records (ISIRs) – the financial aid information colleges need to package financial aid offers – for all students impacted by the data errors.

ED has not yet released a timeline for processing paper FAFSAs or institutional corrections. The American Association of Community Colleges is monitoring these issues and will continue to request more information on the timeline from agency officials.

Temporary fix for mixed-status families

In the same press release, the department announced a new, streamlined FAFSA submission process for students from mixed-status families – where a parent or contributor does not have a social security number (SSN). Since the launch of the updated FAFSA form in late December, students from mixed-status families have been unable to complete and submit an application online because contributors have been unable to validate their identities to receive a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. The department has since announced several “workarounds” for these students, including having students fill out a paper FAFSA and having students fill out an online FAFSA with a missing signature to be added later. These workarounds introduced additional complexity to the process and new issues for students and contributors.

Per Tuesday’s announcement, ED will temporarily allow contributors without an SSN to obtain an FSA ID and submit an online FAFSA before validating their identity. As the contributors will not be able to verify their identity with TransUnion, they will not be able to take advantage of the IRS data matching and will have to manually enter their federal tax information. The new process can also be used by students without an SSN who are eligible for federal student aid – including students from the freely associated states – but colleges must verify their eligible noncitizen status before aid is disbursed.

Department officials again underscored that this is a temporary fix and that they are working to find a permanent solution that will allow these students and contributors to take advantage of the IRS data match and have the same filing experience as any other applicant in forthcoming award years.

Read the rest of 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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