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Tackling Financial Aid Verification

By: TxCAN   |   April 2023

In this blog, TxCAN shares highlights from uAspireā€™s FAFSA Completion and Verification Training. This blog includes useful resources for practitioners assisting students with financial aid verification.

Spring is here and students should begin receiving financial aid award letters from colleges they have been accepted to. Some students may still be waiting to receive their award letters because they may have been selected for financial aid verification


What is financial aid verification? 

Financial aid verification is a process conducted to check the accuracy of information submitted on the FAFSA or TASFA. This process is intended to combat fraud in the financial aid process. This is a completely normal process and it does not mean that students did anything wrong. Financial aid verification is just a way to check for accuracy of information submitted via FAFSA or TASFA so that colleges can process student financial aid offers accurately. This process helps colleges ensure students are getting the maximum federal or state aid they are eligible for.  

There are two types of financial aid verification: federal and institutional. Federal financial aid verification comes from the federal government, but schools also have the right to ask for financial aid verification outside of what the federal government requires.  

Verification is not optional and if completed late- may delay a student’s financial aid. If financial aid verification is incomplete students will be ineligible for federal aid and likely ineligible for institutional aid. A financial aid delay may result in late charges for the student, because their financial aid will not be awarded until verification is completed.   Additionally, students may have to pay back aid already received if federal financial aid verification is not completed.  

How to know if a student was selected for verification? 

Not all students are selected for verification. Only a select few are selected each academic year. A way to check if a student was selected for financial aid verification is by reviewing their FAFSA Student Aid Report (SAR). If there is an asterisk (*) next to the student’s EFC on their student aid report. They have been chosen for federal financial aid verification. The paragraph underneath the EFC will also state that they were selected.  

Counselors and advisors may also have access to the Apply Texas Counselor Suite. In the counselor suite, counselors and advisors can pull a report showing them the students in their school who were selected for financial aid verification. TxCAN recommends that counselors and advisors use this report to plan to talk to the students with verification. Depending on capacity, this may look like sending a letter home with students, asking them to visit the counselor’s office for a brief meeting, or sending a text to their parents.  

Advise all students to keep an eye out in their mail, personal email, university email and college portal for instructions and next steps. While students wait for colleges to reach out and start request verification paperwork, they can begin gathering documents normally requested during the financial aid verification process. The next section discusses the verification paperwork required this school year.  

Financial Aid Verification Documentation 

For each award year, the Department of Education announces the FAFSA information that students may be required to verify during the Federal Financial Aid verification process. Institutions have the discretion to verify additional information. This award year, federal financial aid verification may include requiring proof for the following items: tax & income information, number in household and number in college, and identity/statement of educational purpose. Below we share tips from uAspire for those following items.  

Tax & income information 

This proof looks like submitting a tax transcript or a signed copy of parents' tax returns for dependent students for the applicable tax year (2021 for this school year). If a student is not required to file and they are dependent, they will be asked to submit a copy of their W2. uAspire shares a video with instructions on how to acquire a tax transcript here. Colleges do reserve the right to ask for a transcript instead of the copy of the family’s tax return. By mail, a transcript can take 5-10 business days. Transcripts can also be requested online to retrieve immediately. Even though this is the fastest method, it is not the easiest. To retrieve a transcript online, parents must set up an IRS account which requires various types of verification and photo identification. 

If a parent OR independent student did not file a tax return, a college may request proof from IRS that they do not file. Parents and independent students who did NOT file a tax return will need to provide an IRS Verification of Non-filing letter (VNF). To get a copy of this VNF letter, students or families will need to fill out the 4506-T form and check box 7 on the form. This form is completed and mailed to Internal Revenue Service, RAIVS Team, P.O. Box 9941, Mail Stop 6734, Ogden, UT 84409 for students in Texas.  

If a parent or an independent student is unable to request a verification of non-filing letter (VNF) or the VNF never arrives after requesting it, students have the option to submit a notarized statement to the college confirming their non-filing status and confirming they were able to obtain a VNF through the IRS.  

Number in household and number in college 

Best tips shared by uAspire include making sure students are using the correct form and the correct school year for the school requesting financial aid verification. The number in household form normally asks for the name of all members in the student’s household, their age, and their relation to the student. This number in household should match the number of family members included in the FAFSA. A student should make sure to compare the household number by checking their SAR. Linked here is a video on how to retrieve your Student Aid Report.  On occasion, institutions may ask for additional enrollment verification of siblings within the household also enrolled in college. Siblings would then have to reach out to their college to obtain an enrollment verification, and students would then submit to the college requesting that proof.  

Identity/statement of educational purpose 

This financial aid verification component is not as common as the two previously discussed above. This is seen more often with transfer or returning students. Students are asked to sign a statement of educational purpose in-person or the presence of a notary. Students will need to provide an unexpired government-issued photo in the process. Some schools might request that the student visit the financial aid office in person to complete this form. This verification is not as common as the other types. 

Thank you uAspire 

TxCAN is grateful to uAspire for providing this thorough training on FAFSA completion and financial aid verification. TxCAN hopes this blog shares the knowledge learned at the training in a concise way that is helpful to practitioners who were unable to join. uAspire compiled a list of best practices which TxCAN shares below.  

uAspire Best Practices 

  • Encourage families to use the IRS Data Retrieval if they can 
  • During SAR review of your caseload, track which students are selected for verification 
  • Gather verification worksheets for popular colleges in your area 
  • Help students develop the habit of checking their email, mail, and portal often 
  • Once accepted, encourage students to check in with the financial aid office 
  • When possible, review verification materiel before submission 
  • Help students create systems to stay organized with their verification document submission 

Remember students who are selected for verification will not see complete accurate financial aid award letters until the financial verification process is complete. TxCAN knows this season can feel overwhelming, but we hope this blog has provided you with the information, tools, and resources to help your students conquer financial aid verification 

Additional Resources 

  

Author
The Texas College Access Network (TxCAN) connects and supports college access initiatives across Texas, with the goal of increasing access to college and certificate programs.