ERIC Number: ED604070
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2018-Nov
FAFSA Verification: Good Government or Red Tape?
National College Access Network
Each year, there are millions of students nationwide who are selected for this audit-like process after completing their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In fact, over half of Pell Grant-eligible FAFSA applicants were selected for verification for the 2016-17 FAFSA filing cycle. That's over 5.4 million students who spent hours combing through documents, visiting online web portals, going to the IRS office in person to request a transcript, and meeting with their financial aid administrators to prove that what they said on the FAFSA was accurate. FAFSA verification is a black box in the higher education policy space. It is required to help the U.S. Department of Education manage the improper payment rate for the Pell Grant and federal student loan programs. The Department states a goal to keep improper payments under 7.85 percent for the Pell Grant program, and was dinged in fiscal year 2017 for just missing the mark with a rate of 8.2 percent. Yet there is no public information about how students are selected for verification or what impact a verification rate of 30 percent of all students -- about 50 percent of all low-income students -- has on this improper payment measure. Further, changes over the past several years meant to improve the process seem to have made it worse (Bidwell 2018). This paper outlines what verification is and how the process impacts students. It also offers policy recommendations to lessen the negative effects of verification and help more students access aid.
Descriptors: Federal Aid, Student Financial Aid, Audits (Verification), Financial Aid Applicants, Grants, Student Loan Programs, Low Income Students, Sampling, High School Seniors, Eligibility, Taxes, College Bound Students, College Students
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Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: High Schools; Secondary Education; Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Authoring Institution: National College Access Network (NCAN); National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA)
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: Pell Grant Program
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A