Title: The Burden of Proof: Impact of and Solutions for FAFSA Verification
Source: The National College Attainment Network (NCAN) and the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA)
The National College Attainment Network (NCAN), in partnership with the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), recently released a report that explores the magnitude and burden verification has on both students and the work of financial aid administrators, in addition to guidance on how this burden can be alleviated. According to this report, verification is a tedious process within the federal student aid structure that often determines if students can receive aid upon completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Beyond being a time-consuming process for financial aid offices, there has been increased scrutiny of this “audit-like process” (p. 4) that affects students of color and low-income college applicants unevenly.
Key findings from this report include:
- Failing to complete financial aid verification can prohibit students from receiving federal, state, or institutional aid.
- Two of the main challenges experienced by students during the verification process are navigating the verification nuances at various institutions as they apply for college and obtaining necessary documentation to verify that the details on their FAFSA are precise.
- For the first three-quarters of the 2021-22 financial aid cycle, roughly one in five students (17 percent) have been selected for verification. This percentage has decreased over 20 percent from previous cycles over the past decade.
- Due to COVID-19, the Department of Education postponed verification during the 2021-22 award year to provide student relief but has yet to extend alleviation for the upcoming academic year of 2022-23. By supplying relief for the verification process students embark on to secure financial aid confirms that the method is confusing and burdensome.
The report also includes recommendations to better assist and target individuals selected for verification. Some recommendations include:
- The Department of Education improving their leverage of existing federal data with the execution of the FAFSA Simplification Act and the FUTURE Act.
- The Department of Education reconstructing the verification selection algorithms
To read the full report, click here.
—Brianna C.J. Clark