Dept. of Education Tells Colleges to Use Faulty Data Under Conditions

The Department of Education just continues to make major errors that are already significantly impacting students who are about to enter college in the fall.

Recently, the DOE sent out incorrect financial aid information to universities and colleges, which could potentially create even more delays for students. Schools are also now in a very compromising situation, which follows a huge error in applications for the FAFSA form that these higher education institutions use.

The federal agency knows it made a mistake, but told colleges that they can use this faulty data, as long as it results in an applicant receiving additional federal aid than they should qualify for, and not less.

Many advocates are very concerned about this, according to media outlet The Hill, as administrators in financial aid departments could find themselves in sticky situations.

Re-processing student aid forms could result in students not receiving the financial aid they desperately need until May.

As the American Council on Education’s senior director of government relations, Emmanual Guillory, said recently:

“We want students to be able to get as much financial aid that they need, if they’re eligible. We want that absolutely 1,000%, right? But, at our institutions, this type of information is audited. You don’t want to be on record literally processing information that’s inaccurate, knowingly processing inaccurate information.

“And you’re doing a disservice to students if you give them the illusion that they’re eligible for more aid in one year, when really, they’re not.”

The applications of hundreds of thousands of students have been affected by the DOE errors.

On Monday, the DO released a statement announcing that schools could use the wrong data it sent out.

The statement said:

“[Schools] may use their professional judgment to decide on a case-by-case basis, whether to proceed with the current ISIRs [institutional student information records] for FAFSAs when reprocessing is expected to increase students’ SA [student aid index] and reduce financial aid eligibility, or to request that the Department reprocess any one or more of those FAFSAs.”

Guillory, though, said this puts college officials in an unfair spot, especially as future administration investigations could ultimately lead to problems for these schools should the incorrect data be accepted.

As he said:

“It just puts our professionals or financial administrators on the ground in a very compromising position. It should never be their decision to choose between doing things the right way, which means actually processing the [forms] using the accurate data.”

The other option they have in this scenario, Guillory said, is one that ultimately would reward some students with additional financial aid, but would force the officials to say, “We’ll just compromise everything that we’ve been told not to compromise.”

Another major concern is that the typical financial aid timeline of April likely won’t remain in place. This means that many students may receive their financial aid reward notifications after the May 1 deadline that most schools have for students to decide whether they’re going to attend that school for the fall semester.