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The main burden on students and universities has been reduced for at least one year.U.S. Department of Education Announce On Tuesday, it will waive the verification requirements for most of the information that federal aid applicants must provide during the 2021-22 registration cycle.

This change is designed to alleviate the challenges faced by students and institutions due to the pandemic, which means that fewer low-income students need to provide additional evidence to prove that their financial information is accurate.In “Dear Colleagues” on July 13 letter A Ministry of Education official wrote in describing the change that the verification process will focus on preventing identity theft and fraud.

That thunderous sound you hear? This is a frantic applause from the advocates of college admissions. After all, verification is a procedural obstacle that disproportionately hinders low-income and underrepresented applicants.

“This change is great news for students and those who support them,” said Carrie Warick, director of policy and advocacy for the National Network for University Achievement (NCAN). “Students from low-income backgrounds who should receive need-based assistance will be able to get that assistance without having to pass additional barriers to get it.”

For the lucky ones who haven’t handled the verification personally, let’s review it. Students and parents must complete a free application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA in order to receive government grants, scholarships and loans. Every year, the Federal Student Aid Office of the Department of Education (called FSA) requires many new and returning students to complete an audit called verification. Each applicant selected to participate in the process must submit additional financial information to the university, such as tax transcripts, and the university must then verify the accuracy of each FAFSA marked for review. Students must comply to get help.

The process is designed to reduce fraud, correct errors, and ensure that the appropriate amount of taxpayer funds goes to the right people. However, many critics of verification have long believed that it creates undue barriers before students try to enter (and pass) the university.As chronicle Described in a wide range of 2017 articleThe “verification trap” puts many disadvantaged students into trouble. They often have to navigate the whole process by tracking tax documents and filling out confusing forms, with little or no help from family members or consultants. For some applicants, this process is arduous-and it may cause emotional loss. “We are basically asking the poor to prove over and over again that they are poor,” a researcher told chronicle, “Their lives are as complicated as they say.”

According to the Ministry of Education, usually more than 3 million federal aid applicants are selected for verification each cycle. But the proportion of students selected has been declining in recent years.Last December, the FSA announced Use a more targeted approach Verification-and reduce the number of applicants selected in 2020-21 to 18%. In the first two admission cycles, it chose 22%, which is lower than the high of 38% from 2011-12 to 2017-18.

“The cost of verification,” said a slide presented at the FSA conference last year. “When we verified more than 18% of FAFSA filers, the benefits exceeded the benefits.”

Consider this: less than 1% of all federal tax returns audited by the IRS in 2019.

secondUntil, the overall verification selection rate revealed so much. Many institutions that enroll large numbers of low-income students, especially two-year universities, have long reported acceptance rates that exceed the national average.

Some applicants are more likely to be selected than others.recent Washington post analysis Federal data found that the Department of Education has disproportionately selected students from most black and Latino communities for verification for at least a decade.

In the past, approximately half of FAFSA applicants who met Pell’s qualifications were selected for verification. Why is this important?

The reason is as follows: 2018 analysis, NCAN estimates that 25% of the people selected in the 2016-17 cycle experienced a “validation meltdown,” which means that they failed to complete the process, preventing them from receiving Pell Grants and other federal aid. (In 2019, the Federal Office of Student Aid estimated It is verified that the melting rate is about 11%. ) In the 2016-17 cycle, NCAN found that 81% of low-income students who completed the FAFSA and were not selected for verification received Pell grants, compared with 56% of those who were selected.

Warwick said that although overall choices will fall in 2021-22, it is not clear how much. He cautioned against viewing this change as a sign that families can more easily play with the federal aid system: “This change will greatly Reduce the number of students who need to complete the verification process, but it’s not free, if they shouldn’t get a Pell grant.”

Students—not to mention the school counselors and college counselors who helped them complete the FAFSA—are not the only ones who will benefit from a year of change. Many university officials also have reason to breathe a sigh of relief.

After all, verification puts an administrative burden on the Financial Aid Office, which must oversee the process.in a Recently published papers, Two researchers estimate that verification costs the university nearly $500 million each year. Community colleges that serve a large number of Pell grant recipients spend a quarter of their operating budget for this process, compared to only 1% of private universities.

Justin Draeger, president and CEO of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Managers, wrote in a letter that funders have a long and complicated history of verification. chroniclee Tuesday: “It’s frustrating that the verification is not very targeted, and actually did not cause too many changes in financial aid rewards. Now abandoning these requirements means that students who are stuck in the verification process and the schools that have been working with them can Directly formulate economic assistance plans without delay.”

It remains to be seen whether the temporary change will lead to a permanent reform of the verification process.in a Press ReleasesFSA Chief Operating Officer Richard Cordray said his department will “continue to evaluate what improvements can be made in the long term to make the verification process fairer while still preventing fraud.”

The next registration cycle may provide a blueprint for a less onerous process.

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