Posted Date: June 22, 2017

Author:  Lisa DiCarlo, Director, Student Experience Group, Federal Student Aid

Subject: SSN Corrections in the CPS

We would like to remind the financial aid community of guidance related to the Social Security number (SSN) correction process with the Central Processing System (CPS). While this guidance has remained unchanged for years, we believe it is important enough to share again.

SSN Changes in CPS

When the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) is submitted to the CPS, the SSN and first two letters of the applicant's last name on the FAFSA become the CPS transaction ID for the processing cycle. For example, if John Smith applies using an SSN of 999-99-9999, his identifier for the processing cycle will be 999999999SM.

There are two SSN fields in a student's CPS record: one is the original SSN submitted with the FAFSA (which becomes part of the identifier), and the other is the current SSN, which remains the same as the original SSN if there is no correction. If a correction is made to the original SSN, the correction is accepted in the current SSN field, but the CPS identifier (with the original SSN) remains unchanged throughout the cycle.

Incorrect SSN on the FAFSA

Students who enter their SSN incorrectly on the FAFSA (when there is not an SSA Match Flag of “4”) have a few options:

  • File a new FAFSA. However, before filing a new FAFSA, they should ensure they will not be negatively affected by any school or state aid deadlines.
  • Submit a correction to the SSN through the school. This is the best option when the student needs to maintain the processed date from the original FAFSA.
  • Submit a correction to the SSN via a paper Student Aid Report (SAR). If students do not have a copy of their SAR, it must be ordered by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 1-800-433-3243 (1-800-4-FED-AID). FSAIC will mail it to students, who must correct the SSN on the SAR and then mail it to the address listed on the SAR.

If a student uses another student's SSN and creates an incorrect CPS identifier (which can occur with siblings) before the second student has submitted a FAFSA, the student with the incorrect SSN must file a new FAFSA to create a CPS identifier with the correct SSN instead of submitting a SAR correction.

The student whose SSN was improperly used must submit a correction application for the data to be processed at the CPS. A correction application may be obtained by calling FSAIC at 1-800-433-3243 (1-800-4-FED-AID). When the call is received a FSAIC Customer Service Representative will transfer the student to the correction application voicemail; the student should leave a detailed message, following the instructions on the voicemail. A representative will then contact the student and provide further instructions on resolving the SSN issue.

SSN Changes Related to the COD System

The Common Origination and Disbursement (COD) System always uses the current SSN when processing records, whether it is the same as the original SSN or not. Therefore, schools should only submit the current SSN to the COD System for processing of grant and loan data and only after any Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR) correction to the SSN has been successfully processed by the CPS. The CPS will send both the CPS identifier and the current SSN to the COD System. Refer to the COD Technical Reference for information on submitting record data to the COD System.

Schools can correct a student's SSN provided the record does not have a Social Security Administration (SSA) Match Flag of "4" (indicating a successful SSN match) by using FAA Access to CPS Online or third-party software.

If Both Students Receive a Match Flag of “4”

In rare cases, two students have both entered incorrect SSNs and received an SSA Match Flag of “4.” Typically this occurs with twins who have the same last name, the same date of birth, and the same first two letters of the first name and whose SSNs get switched. When this happens, both students must file a correction application because the matches are not based on correct information for either applicant.

In cases where it appears that two students share the same SSN, FSAIC should be contacted for assistance.

If the SSN is changed when there is a Match Flag of “4”

In the event that a student filed the FAFSA with the correct SSN, received an SSA Match flag of “4”, and accidentally changed his or her correct SSN to an incorrect SSN, a correction application must be filed by the student in order to successfully correct the SSN back to the original.

Use of Pseudo-SSNs for FAFSA filers in subsequent years

It is critical that students from one of the Pacific Island groups who receive a nine-digit pseudo-SSN assigned by the CPS continue to use that nine-digit number on subsequent FAFSAs. Returning filers and FAAs should never provide only the first three digits (666) of the pseudo-SSN on any subsequent FAFSA because this will create a new pseudo-SSN. Only first-time FAFSA filers should submit just “666” in the SSN field.

Schools who have questions about or need assistance with submitting SSN corrections via FAA Access to CPS Online may contact CPS/SAIG Technical Support at 1-800-330-5947 (TDD/TTY 1-800-511-5806) or by e-mail at CPSSAIG@ed.gov.

   

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