Resources for Navigating FAFSA Updates
Families that have tried completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) recently have discovered that it’s gotten harder.
In March, a valuable IRS tool that parents use to file the application suddenly disappeared from the FAFSA website. The Data Retrieval Tool allows families to pre-populate the FAFSA with information from their tax returns stored at the Internal Revenue Service. When completing the FAFSA, a parent can click a link and be connected to the IRS to have the tax agency fill in all the appropriate boxes. This makes completing the application easier while reducing the chance of errors.
Families didn’t know why the Data Retrieval Tool was unavailable until the IRS and the U.S. Department of Education announced on March 9 that it had suspended its use for “several weeks.”
This was the explanation from the agencies:
As part of a wider, ongoing effort at the IRS to protect the security of data, the IRS decided to temporarily suspend the Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) as a precautionary step following concerns that information from the tool could potentially be misused by identity thieves.
At the end of March, the IRS and the U.S. Department of Education said that the online tool could be unavailable for months while security measures are put in place. The announcement said that the tool might not be available until the next financial aid season that starts on October 1, 2017 for the 2018-2019 admission season.
This does not mean that parents will be unable to complete the FAFSA, it will just be a little more challenging.
Parents can file the FAFSA on their own by simply consulting their 2015 tax return. If they don’t have it, they can download a summary of their tax return, called a tax transcript, at the federal website called Get Transcript Online.
FAFSA and PROFILE Resources
Here are some free resources to help you complete the FAFSA and the College PROFILE (a similar form used by some private colleges and universities):
1. FAFSA on the Web.
You will fill out the FAFSA on this website. You will also find the following FAFSA contact information if you have questions about the form:
FAFSA hotline: (800) 433-3243.
Email: [email protected]
This step-by-step video guide, narrated by the financial aid director at Stanford University, explains how to complete the FAFSA.
This website for financial aid professionals includes a section entitled, Students, Parents & Counselors. You’ll find information about financial aid on this site, including links to state aid programs in the 50 states.
CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE
You will fill out the PROFILE on this website. You will also find links to information about this financial aid application that roughly 230 colleges and universities (nearly all private) use.
In addition, the website contains contact support links if you have questions about the PROFILE:
2. PROFILE Support Center’s FAQs
The PROFILE website provides more than 200 Q&As on PROFILE issues.
This is a helpful step-by-step tour on how to complete the PROFILE. The tutorial, provided by the nonprofit Khan Academy, is narrated by Stanford University’s financial aid director.