handbookThis past quarter ED released new appendices to the Federal Student Aid Handbook for the first time.  While individual volumes within the FSA Handbook have had appendices, (e.g., Volume 3 and its appendices related to the various Pell Grant formulae), this is the first time there has been an appendix to the entire Handbook.  And, since they implemented this addition, they went at it with a full swing and provided a total of 5 appendices to the FSA Handbook.  Some of the appendices were previously included as part of The Blue Book, or certain sections of the FSA Handbook.  They include such items as a glossary, and a list of common acronyms applicable to financial aid, resources and contacts for technical assistance, steps a school should take in circumstances of a student’s death, and finally, the table of contents to the Higher Education Act which may be helpful in researching specific aspects of the law.   The appendices for the 2014-2015 Federal Student Aid Handbook may be accessed via this link:  Appendices for the 2014- 2015 FSA Handbook.

Other items of interest that ED released during the past quarter include the “Errata and Updates” for the Handbook’s Application and Verification Guide that was released on November 6, 2014, part of which included clarification on government-issued identification for verification purposes.

The annual “active index” version of the 2014-2015 Federal Student Aid Handbook was also released with the November 12, 2014, Electronic Announcement.  This useful tool allows you to click on a particular topic in the index and it will take you to the applicable page automatically.

Schools will do well to review each of the announcements related to these FSA Handbook updates and become familiar with the enhancements provided via these announced changes.

CORRECTION (Not yet published by ED):  In FAME’s staff review of the sidebar “New” information on page 4-69 of the 2014-2015 FSA Handbook, Volume 4, it was noted that there appeared to be a contradiction with a statement on page 4-71 in the second paragraph.  Based upon the “New” information in the sidebar on page 4-69 and the referenced Dear Colleague Letter, DCL-GEN-13-02, Q & A attachment Question #6, it is apparent that you can no longer change a subsidized loan to an unsubsidized loan if the student inadvertently borrowed in excess of annual or aggregate subsidized loan limits.  However, on page 4-71 in the second paragraph that starts with “Once you have documented…,” it indicates one of the options for resolving inadvertent over-borrowing to be “replacement of an excess subsidized loan with an unsubsidized loan….”

ED has confirmed to FAME that there is an error in the wording on page 4-71.  The guidance in DCL-GEN-13-02, Q&A #6, is ED’s current guidance on this matter.  The DCL is dated January 17, 2013.

It was also noted by FAME staff that the last sentence in the top sidebar note on page 4-71 was cut off mid-sentence.  ED acknowledges this error as well and the situation has been communicated to the ED staff responsible for the FSA Handbook.  Although ED did not specify in its written response to us, it would appear that the sentence that is truncated should read “The Department or the school determines whether the repay­ment arrangement is satisfactory. “  This is the same wording as was included in the prior year’s 2013-2014 FSA Handbook.  We anticipate an “Errata and Updates” to the 2014-2015 FSA Handbook to be forthcoming as a result of these items discovered.

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