Part: 2 - - The Application Process
SectionTitle: How The Application Is Processed
HOW THE APPLICATION IS PROCESSED
The CPS analyzes the information from the FAFSA and calculates an EFC to determine how much a student and (if the student is dependent) his or her parents can be expected to contribute toward the student's COA. As discussed in Part 1, the EFC measures the family's financial strength on the basis of the student's family's income and assets. The EFC formula also takes into account the family's expenses relative to the number of persons in the household and how many of them will be attending college during the award year.
If the EFC is less than the COA, the student is considered to have financial need. A student with a zero EFC may receive the maximum Federal Pell Grant award, depending on the student's COA and enrollment status. The higher the EFC is, the less the student's need. If the student's EFC is above a maximum amount determined each award year, the student will not be eligible for a Federal Pell Grant but may be eligible for other assistance.
The CPS automatically calculates a simplified EFC for a student who meets certain income and tax filing requirements. Such a student does not need to provide asset information on the application, but if he or she does, the CPS will perform a calculation using the simplified formula (and ignoring the asset data) and a full calculation using the asset data. The student will receive a primary EFC (based on the simplified formula) and a secondary EFC (based on the full calculation). For more information on primary and secondary EFCs, see pages 26-27.
For a dependent student to qualify for the simplified calculation
- neither the student nor his or her parents can have been required
to file an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 1040 and
- the parents must have an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)(for tax
filers) or income earned from work (for nonfilers) of less than
$50,000, not counting the income of a dependent student.
For an independent student to qualify for the simplified calculation
- neither the student nor his or her spouse can have been required
to file an IRS Form 1040 and
- the student and his or her spouse must have a combined AGI (for
tax filers) or combined income earned from work (for nonfilers) of
less than $50,000.
The formula also provides for an automatic zero EFC for some students. Applicants who meet the following requirements will automatically receive a zero EFC:
- for a dependent student, neither parent was required to file a
1997 IRS Form 1040 and the parents' combined AGI (for tax filers)
or combined income earned from work (for nonfilers) is $12,000 or
- for an independent student with dependents other than a spouse,
neither the student (or spouse) was required to file a 1997 IRS
Form 1040, and the student's and spouse's combined AGI (for tax
filers) or combined income earned from work (for nonfilers) is
$12,000 or less.
Independent students with no dependents other than a spouse do not qualify for an automatic zero EFC.
The CPS uses a series of edits to check the consistency of the student's information. For instance, it would be inconsistent for the dependent student of a single parent to report income earned from work for two parents. If the data is inconsistent, the CPS may be unable to calculate the EFC or may calculate an EFC based on automatic assumptions. If assumptions have been used, they are indicated on the SAR or ISIR; the student must make sure the assumptions are correct.
For applications submitted through EDE, the school can anticipate certain assumptions and correct or override certain information on the student's first application. The student's information does not have to be reprocessed to confirm these assumptions. For example, if the household size and the number of family members in college are equal to each other and more than two, the CPS assumes that the number in college should be one. In an electronic application, the FAA can override this assumption if all members of the household are in fact enrolled in college. This override allows information contrary to the assumptions to be confirmed when first filing through EDE (rather than requiring later confirmation).
The CPS also performs several data matches. If a student's records do not satisfy the eligibility match requirements of one or more of the databases, the student's records are flagged, and the student may not be eligible to receive federal aid unless the discrepancy is resolved. Resolving such a discrepancy usually requires the student to submit additional documentation to the school.
National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS)
The CPS matches applicant data against the Department's National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). This database identifies students who owe an overpayment on a Federal Pell Grant, FSEOG, or Federal Perkins Loan and students who have defaulted on any Federal Perkins Loan, Direct Loan, or FFEL. If a student is found to owe an overpayment or to be in default and has not made satisfactory arrangements to repay, he or she receives a comment on the SAR or ISIR saying he or she is ineligible for aid until the status is resolved.
If a match with NSLDS is completed but no student data are present, the student's output document will have a comment explaining that the student's SSN is not associated with any previous financial aid history (comment 140). The school can thus assume that the student has no financial aid history.
If a student's SSN matches a record in the NSLDS database but no financial aid history information was found, the student will receive a comment stating such (comment 137). The school is not required to take any action in such a case.
If a student's SSN matches a record in the NSLDS database but neither the first name nor date of birth matches what the student reported to the CPS, the output document will have a comment explaining that the financial aid history is not provided due to the partial match and directing the student to work with the school to resolve the discrepancy (comment 138). The loan history in the database does not appear on the student's SAR or ISIR, but the comment alerts the FAA that some financial aid history is associated with that student's SSN. The school must resolve the partial match before the student can receive aid.
Social Security Administration (SSA)
The Department sends records to the Social Security Administration (SSA) to check the validity of the SSN a student reports to the CPS. If the SSN is invalid (that is, the SSN the student reported is not found in the SSA's database), the student receives a rejected SAR, and a comment will appear on the SAR or ISIR instructing him or her to review the SSN. (Also, the student receives a comment on the SAR or ISIR if the SSN is found in the SSA's database but the name and/or date of birth reported on the FAFSA does not match SSA records.)
A comment on the output document instructs a student reporting an invalid SSN to correct the SSN or contact the SSA if he or she believes the reported SSN is correct. If the reported SSN is correct, the student must follow up with a local or regional SSA office to update the SSA database; the student must report his or her correct SSN to the SSA and provide documentation verifying the correct SSN. The Department cannot update the SSA database for the student. Once the SSA database is updated, the student may submit the SSN correction to the CPS again on the SAR, but he or she is not required to do so. Regardless of whether or not the student corrects the SSN, the school must document that it has determined the correct SSN.
The CPS also conducts a match with the SSA to verify U.S. citizenship status if the student indicates on the FAFSA that he or she is a U.S. citizen. The results of the SSA citizenship match are printed on the student's output document. When a student's reported SSN, name, or date of birth conflicts with the SSA database, no citizenship match can be performed. The student receives a comment on the output document explaining that the student's status was not checked. A student who receives this comment must provide the school with documentation substantiating his or her claim to be a citizen or eligible noncitizen. If the student's citizenship status was not confirmed through this match, the student will receive comment 146, and he or she must provide the school with documentation of his or her citizenship status.
If a student makes corrections to his or her name, date of birth, or SSN after an attempted SSA database match, this record will be rematched against the SSA database. A new match flag will be generated and reported in the FAA Information section. Once all the SSA match elements have been confirmed (that is, SSN, name, and date of birth all match and U.S. citizenship is confirmed), the SSN and citizenship flags will be carried forward to the next year's Renewal FAFSA, and the SSA match will not have to be performed each time the student applies for aid. If a student whose match data have been confirmed subsequently tries to change his or her SSN, the CPS does not accept the change and generates a comment advising the student to contact his or her FAA for assistance (comment 13). If the student used a wrong SSN, but it was confirmed by SSA, the student may need to file a new application with the correct SSN, instead of making a correction.
For each student who provides an Alien Registration Number, the CPS conducts a match with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to confirm the student's status as an eligible noncitizen.
The CPS also performs matches against drug abuse conviction records maintained by the U.S. Department of Justice and registration status information maintained by the Selective Service System. For more information on matches, see Chapter 2 of the Federal Student Financial Aid Handbook.