Verification is a process where the Financial Aid Office checks the accuracy of information the students provided on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) with the information provided on the verification worksheet and the signed copy of the current year’s federal income tax transcript for yourself and spouse (if married) or parent(s) if dependent. Only a portion of the student population is selected for verification.
Selection of Applications to be Verified
A student may be selected for verification if there is a discrepancy or a condition which is unusual and warrants investigation. Because Alabama State University participates in the Quality Assurance Program, ASU select students for verification based on its own unique criteria and not that of the U.S. Department of Education. This allows the University an alternative management approach to develop verification that fits the population.
All conflicting information must be resolved before disbursing federal student aid. If any discrepancies are discovered after disbursing federal student aid, the conflicting information must be reconciled and the student is required to repay aid received in excess of his/her eligibility.
All subsequent transactions are reviewed for a student, even if the earlier transaction was already verified. First determine if the EFC or the “C” flags have changed or if there are new comments or NSLDS information. If there is no change the EFC, “C” flags or NSLDS information, no action is required. If the EFC does change but it either does not affect the amount and type of aid received, or the data elements that changed were already verified, no action is required. Of course, any time a “C” flag changes or NSLDS data have been modified, you must resolve any conflicts.
Discrepant Tax Data
If the University has conflicting information concerning a student’s eligibility (such as two tax transcripts for married parents who filed as “head of household”) or has reason to believe a student’s application information is incorrect (e.g., parents indicated that they made $50,000 and are not required to file a tax return), the discrepancies must be resolved before disbursing Title IV funds. Ways used to resolve such discrepancies includes providing an IRS tax transcript which includes amended tax return data or a statement from a tax preparer explaining why both parents were indeed able to file as “head of household”.
Verification / Processing Time Frame
Upon receipt of any Student Aid Reports (SAR)/Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR), a tracking letter requesting additional documentation is sent to the student informing the student of the additional information which is required to complete his/her financial aid. If the SAR/ISIR that is received identifies the student as being selected for verification, the tracking letter requests the appropriate verification documents (i.e., verification worksheet, parent(s) and/or student(s)/spouse federal tax transcript). The student is also notified that April 1st is the financial aid priority date and that campus based aid (Federal Work-Study & Federal Perkins) will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis except for FSEOG. Upon receipt of all requested documentation the verification process is completed within 3-5 working days. Until the requested documentation is submitted to the Office of Financial Aid, further processing of their file is not possible. If a student submits documentation which appears to be fraudulent, the OFA Counselor must notify the Director of Financial Aid.
Document Collection Procedures
When all required documents are received, the student’s file is considered complete and passed on to be verified.
Documentation submitted to the OFA must be legible, appropriate, and have the student's social security number or student's campus ID number for identification purposes. If the student submits a document which is not legible (i.e., a copy of a tax transcript in which the income numbers are not identifiable), not appropriate (a tax transcript is requested and the student submits a W-2), or not identifiable (student submits a copy of the step-parents tax transcript and the last name does not match the student's and there is no student social security number or student's campus ID number) the documents will be returned and a request for additional documentation will be requested.
Notification of Verification to Applicants
Students are notified that they are selected for verification on the Student Aid Report (SAR). In addition, the tracking letter indicates to the student that he/she has been selected for verification when additional documents are requested.
Failure to Comply
Students who fail to submit the required verification documents will not be awarded Title IV funds.
Submission After Deadline
The deadline for students to submit documentation is September 28, 2015 or 120 days after the last day of the student’s enrollment, whichever is earlier. If the student does not complete verification by the deadline, he or she forfeits the Pell Grant (if eligible) for the award year.
Required Verification Items
ASU manually verifies the items required by the federal government (AGI, Taxes Paid, Household Size, Number in College, Certain Untaxed Income and Benefits), as well as the other items that ASU has selected to verify. However, if further investigation is needed to resolve a discrepancy, additional information may be requested.
Adjusted Gross Income
Adjusted Gross Income is verified by comparing a signed copy of the student, spouse, or parent’s federal income tax transcript or an acceptable signed IRS form to the information on the Student Aid Report (SAR)/ Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR). Discrepancies outside of tolerance levels must be corrected before further processing.
U.S. Income Tax Paid
U.S. Income Tax paid is verified by comparing a signed copy of the student, spouse, or parent’s federal income tax transcript or an acceptable signed IRS form to the information on the SAR/ISIR. Discrepancies outside of tolerance levels must be corrected before further processing.
The household size is verified by comparing the family information (section B) on the Verification Worksheet to the SAR/ISIR. Discrepancies must be corrected before further processing.
Number in Postsecondary Institutions
The number of family members enrolled at least half-time (6 credit hours per term) in postsecondary institutions is verified by comparing the family information (section B) on the Verification Worksheet to the SAR/ISIR. Discrepancies must be corrected before further processing.
Certain untaxed income and benefits
The term “untaxed income” means any income excluded from federal income taxation under the IRS code. For an application selected for verification, you must verify up to three specific types of untaxed income benefits:
• Child support
• IRA/Keogh deductions
• Interest on tax-free bonds
Except for child support, the required items can be verified using the tax transcript or alternative tax documents.
Institutional Discretionary Items
A student may be selected for verification if there is a discrepancy or a condition which is unusual and warrants investigation. If a student submits verification documentation (i.e., federal tax transcript), verification of the information on the document against the information in the student's file is required.
Notification to Students
Students who complete the verification process are mailed /emailed an award notification. If there are changes to the ISIR/SAR, the student will receive a revised award notification by mail /email.
The Office of Financial Aid (OFA) participates in the Electronic Data Exchange (EDE) with the Department of Education (DOE). Student information from the SAR/ISIR are verified using the submitted documentation (Verification Worksheet and Federal tax returns) and corrections are made electronically if needed on a daily basis. The corrections are then submitted to CPS online. Once the corrections are made through CPS, the corrected data are processed by the CPS and an ISIR will be returned to the University. Within 24-48 hours, a new ISIR is sent back to the OFA electronically with a new official expected family contribution (EFC) number and confirmation of eligibility through computer matches with other agencies. The file is then ready to be awarded.
The OFA policies and procedures are designed to eliminate the possibility of an overpayment from any fund. If however, an overpayment does occur, the student is billed for the amount of the overpayment by Student Accounts. A letter is sent to the student from OFA informing them of the overpayment. The student is not allowed to register for subsequent terms and academic transcripts are withheld until the account has been cleared.
Updating Requirements and Procedures
There are three items which may be updated (i.e. student reported the family circumstance accurately on the primary application, but the student's situation has changed). When students notify the OFA of an allowable update, the counselor may submit corrections for a new EFC and the new EFC may be used to award financial aid. Updates may occur for:
1. Updating Marital Status
2. May require an update if change in marital status is necessary to address an inequity or reflect more accurate ability to pay
3. FAFSA needs to reflect accurate household size, number in college, dependency status and family financial information
The OFA does not allow interim disbursements. Students must complete the verification process before aid is awarded or disbursed.