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Author Topic: Dept. of Education verification process: gratuitous, underused, or just right?  (Read 534 times)

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Offline TriesteTopic starter

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Every single year that I have been a student - every single year - I have been selected for verification. It didn't matter how much I made, how many people were in my household, how much aid I received or how early/late I filed my FAFSA. It's essentially a huge pain in the ass, and disbursement of federal aid requires these tax documents before aid can be disbursed if you've been selected for verification. Once you've been selected for verification, there is no way to opt out of it. You're giving the school your tax transcripts, and there is just no two ways about it. What's also fun is that the process doesn't provide any accommodations or leeway for people who have filed a legal extension with the IRS - so if you've filed an extension, you don't have your tax documents to submit for verification, but until you have submitted tax documents, there is no guarantee that you'll have anything left to have disbursed to you by the time they finish the process (which they tell you takes at least three weeks, if not a couple months, when they're actually looking for something like five line items on the transcript - what?).

I find the process to be obnoxious and gratuitous, especially as a grad student - I'm not eligible for a Pell grant as a grad student, and verification is supposed to help protect Pell funds against fraud. I've read articles that claim that a much higher percentage of low-income students are selected for verification, and that there is about a seven percent discrepancy between those who were not selected for verification and received aid, and those who received aid who were selected. That is, the statistic I'm familiar with says that about seven percent fewer students receive aid who are selected for verification.

I think it's ridiculous and expensive and bloated to far past the point at which it's needed, and I was curious as to whether others had opinions on the subject.


Offline Callie Del Noire

For real?

I never got picked.. but I'm always late getting my Pell. Like MONTHS late.

Offline TriesteTopic starter

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Last year, I had pretty much all of my scholarships and grants given away because I didn't file my taxes until summer... because my mister was in surgery in early April of the previous year and I spent the rest of the academic year digging myself out of the grade-hole. Everything need-based and some merit-based stuff, gone, because I didn't give them my tax documents by March.

Offline Sure

I've never been picked for verification, but had to provide my tax forms anyway as it was required by my institution under the IDOC.

Online gaggedLouise

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I'm sure it would be reasonably easy to game the control system if the student actually had been making money in a way that removed the real need for him/her to look for grants. provided they know the right people or have the right connections around the job (depositing your wages, share dividends or other assets in a tax haven, making covert payments and so on). While I don't know the U.S. system in any detail, it's my experience that this kind of control (in any need-based support/grants system) is often slow and unreliable and it tends to hit those who want to be honest and who don't have a buffer of ten thousand bucks to help fill the gaps while waiting for the grant process to run its course, or just to get across the stretch when you're moving from, like, unemployment dole to college studies. You have  a great deal of costs when the term begins, many of them new, but you're not eligible for the dole any more and the studying grants may take several weeks to arrive. And the phone queue, if you call, is an hour long, isn't it?
« Last Edit: September 06, 2012, 06:24:49 AM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Frozen Flame

I used to work for the financial aid department of a for-profit school, and the verification process just made the sort of seediness made the already seedy enrollment process that much... well, seedy.

When I took the ED's FSA Coach modules to learn how the system works prior to being employed, they described it as being completely random. I call bull on that. If a student's FAFSA showed their Estimated Family Contribution as being over the Cost of Attendance, they were almost never selected. Meanwhile, if their EFC was below the COA, they were almost always selected.

I don't think it's a matter of lower income alone. I think it has to do with the EFC, and I think they watch how it changes from year to year. If the changes seemed "suspicious" or "unexplained' (they suddenly gained 3 household members, for example) that Verification flag seemed to come up with unerring accuracy.

Offline TriesteTopic starter

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Might be why I'm always selected - my EFC is always 0.

Offline Callie Del Noire

Might be why I'm always selected - my EFC is always 0.

So is mine.. but I'm paying for a good chunk of mine with the GI Bill .. the financial aid is to supplement costs.

Offline Callie Del Noire

And.. I spoke too soon.. SUDDENLY.. I'm now 5k in the hole for 2 semesters worth of VA GI/Bill support that I have till next year.. apparently the VA has been sending it.. but someone didn't acknowledge it.. go now they put me on 'financial hold' till this is resolved.