Posted Date: November 8, 2013
Lynn B. Mahaffie, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Planning, and Innovation
Subject: 2014-2015 Verification-Suggested Text
This Electronic Announcement provides suggested text (see APPENDIX A) that institutions may use to collect verification information related to 2014–2015 FAFSAs. We have also included a table (APPENDIX B) listing the verification items for each "Verification Tracking Group" and any important considerations for each item.
As we noted in an Electronic Announcement posted to IFAP on November 1, 2012, providing this suggested text instead of a model verification worksheet is part of our multi-year effort to develop a customized approach to verification under which we determine for each selected student the required FAFSA verification items.
We urge institutions to read this announcement and the appendices before determining how they will request verification information from students.
Customized VerificationDear Colleague Letter GEN-13-16, posted to IFAP on June 13, 2013, describes the Verification Tracking Groups established for 2014–2015: V1-Standard; V2-Reserved; V3-Child Support Paid; V4-Custom; V5-Aggregate; and V6-Household Resources. The use of the Verification Tracking Groups moves toward the goal of customized verification, which limits the items that most students must verify. For example, a student whose Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR) indicates Verification Tracking Group V3 would only be required to document proof of child support paid and would not be required to verify other items. We have included in APPENDIX C to this Electronic Announcement a listing of those Verification Tracking Groups and the verification items associated to each.
Also, for students selected for Verification Tracking Groups V1, V4, V5, or V6, SNAP and Child Support Paid are listed as required for verification; however, students in those groups should not be asked to verify those items if they were not included on the student's ISIR.
Similarly, some students who are selected for Verification Tracking Groups V1, V5, or V6 are not required to verify number of household members if:
- For a dependent student, the household size included on the ISIR is "2" and the student's parent is single, separated, divorced, or widowed; or the household size is "3" and the parents are married.
- For an independent student, the household size included on the ISIR is "1" and the student is single, separated, divorced, or widowed; or the household size is "2" and the student is married.
Verification of the number of household members enrolled at least half time in eligible postsecondary institutions is not required when the number included on the ISIR is "1."
Removing Unnecessary Burden
The use of a comprehensive verification worksheet that includes all or most of the possible 2014–2015 verification items would suggest to students that all of the items on the worksheet need to be verified, adding unnecessary complexity to the financial aid application process as well as significant unneeded burden on students and families. The use of a comprehensive worksheet could also delay notification of awards and perhaps even disbursement as students and their families struggle to provide documentation for items for which verification is not needed.
To require all selected students to verify all items would also add burden to institutions, particularly the need to resolve conflicts between ISIR information that is not required to be verified but that institutions obtain from verification documentation.
Suggested Verification Text
As noted earlier, we are providing in APPENDIX A suggested text for each of the required 2014–2015 verification items that were identified in the June 13, 2013 Federal Register notice and in Dear Colleague Letter GEN-13-16. While use by an institution of the suggested text fulfills the regulatory verification requirements, except as noted below, institutions are not required to use the Department's suggested text and formats. Instead, institutions may develop and use their own text, forms, documents, statements, and certifications that are specific to the items required to be verified for a particular student or group of students. The one exception is that institutions must use the exact language provided in the "Statement of Educational Purpose" in APPENDIX A for students who are placed in Verification Tracking Groups V4 or V5.
Changes to the Verification Tracking Groups for the 2014-2015 Award Year
The following is a summary of the changes that occurred to the Verification Tracking Groups between the 2013–2014 award year and the 2014–2015 award year:
In 2014–2015, applicants will no longer be assigned to Verification Tracking Group V2 (SNAP-Food Stamps). We have determined that verifying the receipt of SNAP-Food Stamps benefits only did not result in any significant changes to applicants' EFCs. However, because there is little burden associated with verifying this item, applicants placed in Verification Tracking Groups V1, V4, V5, and V6 must verify the receipt of SNAP-Food Stamps benefits if included on the ISIR.
- Verification Tracking Group V6 - Household Resources was added to address concerns raised by institutions that applicants who report very low income compared to the size of their household are not always selected for verification by the Department. We've provided some suggested text in APPENDIX A that institutions may use to collect untaxed income items that may have been received by members of the family. If an institution determines that the amounts provided and verified still do not appear to provide sufficient financial support for the number of household family members reported, we have provided text that an institution may use to request additional financial information from the applicant to explain how the family was financially supported during the 2013 calendar year (see page 9 of APPENDIX A). This may include income and benefit information that is not reported on the FAFSA and not used in the calculation of the applicant's expected family contribution (i.e., Veterans educational benefits, TANF, WIC).
Because this is a new requirement, we expect the number of applicants selected for Verification Tracking Group V6 to be relatively small.
We suggest that each page of an institutionally developed verification document for a student, include appropriate headings and numbering that identify the item(s) being verified. Institutions should ensure that the institutional verification document collects the student's name, ID number, and other identifying information, and that each page is identified as belonging to that student. Also, the institutionally developed verification document should contain any special instructions for where, when, and how documents are to be submitted to the institution. Appendix D is an example of how schools may use the suggested text to develop an institutional verification document.
If you have any questions about the content of this Electronic Announcement or the attachments, please contact our Research and Customer Care Center staff. Staff is available Monday through Friday between the hours of 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM (Eastern Time) at 1-800-433-7327. After hours calls will be accepted by an automated voice response system. Callers leaving their names and phone numbers will receive a return call the next business day. Alternatively, you may email the Customer Care Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.