Students filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid this year should do something that has never before been advisable — wait to turn it in.
The federal government now cross-references data from the FAFSA with tax information in an attempt to cut down on fraudulent aid claims, said Cedric Bandoh, chair of the Scholarships and Financial Aid Advisory Committee. Students should wait until after they or their parents have completed their taxes to avoid discrepancies that will result in the student automatically being selected for verification.
“If you type in ‘I live at 123 Maple St.’ (on the FAFSA)… but then on your tax returns you actually spelled out ‘street’… you’ll be selected for verification,” Bandoh said.
There is, however, an upside to the change. Students can “transfer IRS tax return data directly from the IRS website into the appropriate fields on the FAFSA,” the UH website says, which should streamline the application process.
But some students have to fill out the FAFSA before many employers give tax information in order to meet scholarship deadlines.
“If you have to do your financial aid before Feb. 1… that’s OK,” he said. “We’re just giving you a heads up that you’ll most likely be selected for verification.”
The process will likely take longer this year, but students are asked to remain patient.
“It’s going to take our staff here at UH a little more time to process this,” Bandoh said. “It’s going to take them more time and they’re working with less staff… so it’s going to be a little tight.”
Students should also check their MyUH account regularly so they can catch any problems well ahead of the April 1 deadline, he said.
For help online, students can once again use the live chat at http://www.uh.edu/gethelp, which will be open for extended hours during the first weeks of the semester.
The new procedures aren’t unique to UH and are being enforced over many schools.
“They’re trying to cut down on fraud and make sure students who really need financial aid get their financial aid,” Bandoh said.