What Documentation can a College Financial Aid Administrator Request?
December 10, 2012
Authority to Request Documentation
Regardless of the reason for selecting a FAFSA for verification, the college has the absolute authority to request such documentation as they see fit in connection with the FAFSA. If a student or parent refuses to provide this documentation, the student will be denied financial aid.
The authority to request documentation comes from multiple sources. First, the signing statement on the FAFSA provides this authority:
If you are the parent or the student, by signing this application you certify that all of the information you provided is true and complete to the best of your knowledge and you agree, if asked, to provide information that will verify the accuracy of your completed form. This information may include U.S. or state income tax forms that you filed or are required to file. Also, you certify that you understand that the Secretary of Education has the authority to verify information reported on this application with the Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies.
Section 479A(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 also grants the college financial aid administrator the authority to request documentation.
In addition, nothing in this title shall be interpreted as limiting the authority of the student financial aid administrator in such cases to request and use supplementary information about the financial status or personal circumstances of eligible applicants in selecting recipients and determining the amount of awards under this title.
The regulations also grant authority to the college financial aid administrator to request documentation. For example, the regulations at 34 CFR 668.51(b) states “Applicant responsibility. If the Secretary or the institution requests documents or information from an applicant under this subpart, the applicant shall provide the specified documents or information.” The regulations at 34 CFR 668.54(a)(5) also state that “An institution or the Secretary may require an applicant to verify any data elements that the institution or the Secretary specifies.”
The college financial aid administrator is required to request documentation if he or she believes that the information reported on the FAFSA is inaccurate. For example, the regulations at 34 CFR 668.54(a)(3) state “If an institution has reason to believe that any information on an application used to calculate an EFC is inaccurate, it shall require the applicant to verify the information that it has reason to believe is inaccurate.” The regulations at 34 CFR 668.16(f) require colleges to have an adequate system for identifying and resolving discrepancies in all the information available to the college about a financial aid applicant, including discrepancies between the income tax returns and the FAFSA.
If the application fails to provide the documentation within a reasonable time period as specified by the college, the regulations at 34 CFR 668.60(b)(1) and 34 CFR 668.60(c)(2) prohibit the college from disbursing any further federal student aid to the student, including grants, loans and student employment. The student will also be required to repay any federal student aid already disbursed. The regulations at 34 CFR 668.60(d) also preclude processing any subsequent year’s FAFSAs until the applicant provides the requested documentation.