Posted Date: April 16, 2009

Author: William Leith, Service Director, Program Management, Federal Student Aid

Subject: Notifications to 2009-2010 Applicants Reminding Them to Update Estimated Income Information

Many applicants provide estimated income information on their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For the past five years, we have sent notifications to selected applicants reminding them to update estimated income and tax information reported on their FAFSA. The goal of this notification initiative is to get students and their families to correct FAFSA data after completing their tax returns, so that accurate information is used when determining a student's eligibility for aid. In many cases, the corrections that result from these notifications have a significant impact on the student's Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

On May 1, 2009, we will send notifications to selected 2009-2010 FAFSA filers who indicated, or whose parent(s) indicated, that they completed the FAFSA using estimated income information. We will ask applicants and their parents to compare their Student Aid Report (SAR) with information from their recently completed 2008 Federal tax returns, and to make corrections as necessary. We will also instruct applicants and their parents to update FAFSA questions #33 and #82, which are the tax filing status questions, from "I will file, but I have not yet completed my return" to "I have already completed my return," even if all other income information on the FAFSA is correct.

Notification Schedule

Now that the April 15, 2009 IRS tax filing date has passed, we will be creating a file of applicants who meet the selection criteria described below. We will send notifications to applicants and parents in this file on May 1, 2009.

In mid-June 2009, a second file of applicants who meet the same selection criteria will be created, and notifications will be sent to applicants and parents shortly thereafter. Those who met the criteria in April, but changed their tax filing status so that they are no longer an estimated filer, will not receive this second notification. Those who met the criteria in April but did not update their tax filing status, as well as those who meet the criteria for the first time, will receive this notification.

Selection Criteria

Notifications will be sent to all 2009-2010 FAFSA filers whose highest Central Processing System (CPS) transaction indicates that the student applicant's or parent's income data is based upon estimated income and who meet all of the following:

  • The student's transaction has not been selected for verification;
  • The student's EFC is 6000 or less;
  • The student is not a graduate student; and
  • A school did not apply a professional judgment (PJ) on the last transaction.

For dependent students and their parent(s), notifications will be sent to both the student and the parent if either one indicated they completed the FAFSA using estimated income information.

A small sample of applicants who meet these conditions will not receive notifications. This will allow us to study the variances in correction activity between those applicants who receive notifications and those who do not.

In addition, we will send an applicable version of the notification to a small sample of applicants who indicated, and whose parent(s) indicated, that they completed the FAFSA using a completed tax return. We will use this second sample to see if there are any variances in correction activity between those who used estimated income information and those who stated that they used completed returns to fill out their FAFSA.

Notification Format

If the student provided an e-mail address on a paper or electronic FAFSA, we will e-mail the notification to that address. The e-mail will contain a link to Corrections on the Web so that students can easily correct their application information online. If the student is dependent, and we have an e-mail address for the student's parent, we will send an e-mail notification to the parent as well. Parents of dependent students will receive e-mail notifications only. Parents who did not provide an e-mail address will not receive a separate notification.

If the student did not provide an e-mail address, or if the e-mail notification is undeliverable, we will mail information to the student. Students who filed a paper FAFSA will receive a full paper SAR and cover letter. Students who filed electronically will not receive a paper SAR, but will receive a letter describing how to make corrections on the Web.

If the paper SAR that we are mailing to the student is in Spanish, the cover letter that accompanies the SAR will also be in Spanish.

Notification Text

Our instructions to the applicant emphasize that all necessary corrections must be made. We also instruct applicants to change their answers to the tax return status questions (FAFSA question #33 for the student, question #82 for the parent) from "will file" to "already completed" if corrections are made based upon a completed tax return, and to avoid making any updates to household size and number in college.

We will tell applicants who have been asked by their school to submit copies of their 2008 Federal tax returns not to submit corrections to the CPS, unless instructed to do so by their school.

The School's Responsibility

We hope you agree that in order to maintain the integrity of our student aid programs, it is critical that we take all reasonable steps to ensure that Federal student aid is awarded based on the most accurate information available.

Financial aid administrators (FAAs) should note that the failure of an applicant to update their income and tax data after receiving a notification does not result in "conflicting information" nor does it, by itself, trigger the need to verify applicant data. FAAs are not responsible for ensuring that updates or corrections are submitted, except under regular verification requirements or when issues of conflicting information arise.

In most instances conflicting information exists when income and tax information on a subsequent Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR) transaction differs from information on an earlier transaction. However, updating the tax return status field from "will file" to "already completed" is considered resolution of the conflicting information for such applicants.

Contact Information

We thank you for your support of this initiative. If you have questions, please contact CPS/SAIG Technical Support at 800/330-5947 (TDD/TTY 800/511-5806) or by e-mail at CPSSAIG@ed.gov.

   

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