Federal financial aid is a vital part of funding many college careers; even the slightest mistake on a form could mean the difference between attending school and taking out costly private student loans. For thousands of prospective college students a glitch in this year’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form may have put their financial aid offers at risk.
According to the Seattle Times, nearly 200,000 future college students, many of them low-income, may received incorrect financial aid offers due to an error in the online FAFSA form.
The issue was discovered earlier this month when officials at colleges and universities noticed a lot of applications with unusually high salaries entered in the “Income Earned From Work” box.
So were these future students seeking financial aid really making hundreds of thousands of dollars? Not even close.
The sky-high reported incomes resulted from the combination of a FAFSA decimal-point error and aid applicants who wanted to provide precise information.
For example, if an applicant whose personal income was $3,000.49 entered that exact amount into the form — instead of just using the rounded $3,000 amount — the decimal point would disappear and the government mistakenly thought that the applicant had earned $300,0049. And since most people with 6-figure incomes don’t need financial aid for college, this error would likely have a negative effect on the student aid offer.
To remedy the issue, the Department of Education plans to reprocess some 200,000 forms that are believed to contain the error.
Additionally, the FAFSA website has been reprogrammed to drop fractional dollar amounts entered by mistake.
Students who submitted a FAFSA for the upcoming school year should be on the lookout for a notice about their Student Aid Report that indicates their application contained an error.
If students receive a notice and have already been granted financial aid, their future college may need to amend the amount.
In an attempt to better streamline future FAFSA forms and prevent error, several senators have been promoting a proposal that would cut the current forms 108 questions down to just two.
Even the feds screw up FAFSA: Online glitch affects thousands [Seattle Times]