On March 3, students wishing to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) got a surprise: the application’s online data recovery tool, which allows their tax return information to be automatically entered. income, had malfunctioned. Completing the process manually can take weeks.
After days of silence, the US Department of Education and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have finally issued a joint statement claiming that the data recovery tool would be unavailable for “several weeks”. A representative from the Ministry of Education said on Friday that there had been no further updates.
According to the joint statement, the IRS suspended the data recovery tool “as a precautionary measure over concerns that the tool’s information could potentially be misused by identity thieves.”
Wednesday marks the FAFSA’s deadline for a number of colleges and universities, after which students will no longer be able to receive aid. This is also the deadline for the state of Texas. In response to the data glitch, Raymund A. Paredes, the commissioner of higher education for Texas, let state colleges and universities extend their FAFSA deadlines, although they are not required to do so. “We encourage institutions to determine a course of action that is in the best interests of their students,” Paredes wrote in A memo Monday.
FAFSAs submitted without using the data recovery tool are more likely to contain errors, which could delay new award packages or prevent current financial aid recipients from receiving their awards on time. Manually completed claims are also more likely to require “verification,” meaning the claimant will need to provide additional documents to confirm their tax information.
Justin Draeger, President of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, Explain the extent of the problem at FedScoop. âThe entire application and verification process relies on this IRS data recovery tool,â said Draeger. âSo for some students it will be a longer process and for others it could lead to a lot of other headaches. “
Since students had months to submit their FAFSA before the online malfunction, many will not be affected by the disabled tool. But some educators speculate that low-income students will be particularly inconvenienced, since they tend to apply closer to the deadline.
As students across the country scramble to explain this problem, many wonder why the error took so long to be corrected.