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A Student’s Guide to Financial Aid: New verification policy to speed students’ financial aid packaging

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By Raechel Fittante

Beginning this year, the federal government, in correlation with financial aid to universities, has put into effect a verification policy which injects changes in the current process.

Verification is a term by which the government verifies the information a student lists on his or her Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) against proven records. In the past, all students were required to submit tax returns and federal verification forms along with a FAFSA, as well as tax forms for parents when applicable depending on a students dependency.

Now, however, there will be selected verification only, meaning students do not need to submit tax return forms with their FAFSAs initially. Only students who are randomly selected in March will be required to provide these forms at a later date.

This may be easier for students initially, but the anticipated number of students to be selected for verification in March is 50 percent of applicants. This may be because the government requires at least 30 percent to be selected.

“Simply, verification is proof to us that the information on the FAFSA is consistent,” said Adeline Cardenas-Clague, dean of enrollment services.

Students who are not selected for verification, are packaged quickly. Yet, perhaps more importantly, students who are selected are responsible to follow through with the financial aid process.

It is no longer the responsibility of the financial aid office to remind students to turn in forms because the student will know before the University if he or she has been chosen. The Student Aid Report (SAR) which is sent to the applicant’s home upon submission of the FAFSA will be the student’s only indication of selection.

According to Cardenas-Clague, two things determine selection-a random pick by the government or a red flag.

“A red flag constitutes inconsistency. For example, if a parent makes $50,000 a year and only reports $200 in income tax, that is a red flag for the government,” she said.

The reason for the new process is to save time so students can be packaged earlier.

Cardenas-Clague indicated that a glitch to the new process is that, because the offices of financial aid are less involved, “we won’t be able to catch errors like we have been able to do in the past.”

Now, financial aid is not required to catch errors on students federal documents, that responsibility lies with the students.

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