ED’s Electronic Announcements (EAs) on IFAP
PROCESSING FOR 2015-2016
EA – Posted October 7, 2014 – (Application Processing). 2015-2016 ISIR Guide
The 2015-2016 ISIR Guide was released with this announcement, which is an earlier release than has been historically the case. The Guide is an extremely useful tool for financial aid administrators. It provides all the details needed to interpret data contained on the ISIR, to include student FAFSA application data, results of the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) data matches, reject codes and reasons, etc. Any questions one may have about the ISIR will likely be answered in the ISIR Guide.
EA – Posted October 28, 2014 – (Application Processing). 2015-2016 SAR Comment Codes and Text Guide
The 2015-2016 SAR Comment Codes and Text Guide is another beneficial tool that schools may use in conjunction with the ISIR Guide described earlier. The Guide includes a description of changes to the SAR comments for 2015-2016 and gives the complete text for all 2015-2016 comments. This resource may also be used as a companion to the 2015-2016 EDE Technical Reference which was posted on IFAP on October 8, 2014.
EA – Posted November 24, 2014 – (Application Processing). 2015-2016 Summary of Changes for the Application Processing System Guide
ED’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) gives an overview of the changes that were made to the 2015-2016 application processing system in this announcement. It contains major changes and enhancements to the system, as well as a schedule for processing in 2015-2016. This includes changes made to the FAFSA (paper and on the Web), as well as those made to FAA Access to CPS Online. The Guide further contains information about database matches and edits and communications that are sent to students. Schools should be mindful that there were clarifications given regarding the definition of a parent, as well the definition of separated parents. In addition, enhancements were made to the instructions related to the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). Also, noteworthy is the information provided regarding the new FSA ID that will be replacing students’ PINs. This Guide’s information is one with which schools will want to be aware.
VERIFICATION FOR 2014-2015
EA – Posted October 17, 2014 – (Verification). Acceptable Documentation Update for 2014-2015 Award Year Verification
As in the past, ED provides further clarification on acceptable documentation after the U.S. Income Tax Return filing season for the 2013 tax year has ended. In particular, the Department clarifies what is considered acceptable documentation for the remainder of the 2014-2015 processing cycle in regard to providing tax return data. More specifically, the announcement states what is considered acceptable alternative documentation when the tax filer has attempted to request an IRS Tax Return Transcript via the IRS online or paper request process, but was unsuccessful in obtaining the tax transcript. It is important to note that the tax filer must have used either the IRS online request or the paper request in order to be able to document the unsuccessful attempt to obtain the IRS Tax Return Transcript. (This eliminates the telephone request option as a choice since the IRS has no documentation alternative for that method of request.) Additionally, tax filers that submit a copy of the documentation of their unsuccessful attempt to get the tax transcript must also provide a copy of the IRS Form 4506T-EZ or IRS Form 4506-T with the school listed on line 5 as the third party to whom the IRS will mail the 2013 IRS Tax Return Transcript. Once these steps have been accomplished, the school may then accept a signed copy of the relevant 2013 IRS tax return for 2014-2015 verification purposes.
EA – Posted November 6, 2014 – (General). Reminder of Institutional Responsibility to Report the Results of Verification Groups V4 and V5
Schools are reminded of the new requirement in 2014-2015 to report the results of the verification process for students selected in Verification Groups V4 and V5. Students in these groups must provide, among other things, documentation of high school completion and a statement of educational purpose. Schools are required to report the outcome of their verification of these items within 60 days of when the school first requested the student to submit the required V4 or V5 identity and high school completion documentation. This EA provides the appropriate information to know the applicable verification results values to use in reporting. Schools must make certain that they are aware of this requirement to report and take steps to ensure the reporting is completed timely. In addition to this EA reminder, FAME clients may also wish to review FAME’s Regulatory Bulletin dated May 5, 2014, as well as the “What’s New in ESP” e-mail dated August 4, 2014, and the “What’s New in Freedom” e-mail dated August 14, 2014.
VERIFICATION FOR 2015-2016
EA – Posted November 24, 2014 – (Verification). 2015-2016 Verification – Suggested Text and Availability of 2014 IRS Tax Information
In this announcement ED provides the financial aid community sample text that may be used for 2015-2016 when communicating with applicants regarding specific requirements for verification of data unique to individual students. This announcement explains the details of the Verification Tracking Groups, which were first introduced for the 2013-2014 award year. Although no students will be assigned to the former Verification Tracking Group V2 (SNAP-Food Stamps) that was eliminated for 2014-2015, schools must still verify SNAP information for applicants in Verification Tracking Groups V1, V4, V5, and V6, if the receipt of SNAP is indicated on the student’s ISIR. Schools are further reminded that while the text provided in this Electronic Announcement’s Appendix A is suggested text for verification purposes, schools must use the exact language provided in the “Statement of Educational Purpose” in the appendix for students selected for Verification Tracking Groups V4 or V5. New clarification this year is provided to indicate that although the exact language of the “Statement of Educational Purpose” must be used, the “Notary Certificate of Acknowledgement,” which may appear on the same page as the “Statement of Educational Purpose,” does not have to be verbatim to the suggested language. Additional information is also provided that states that receipt of “Verification of Nonfiling Letters” for the 2014 tax year must be received on or after June 15, 2015, to be used for verification purposes for 2015-2016. ED also further clarifies guidance on acceptable documentation related to high school completion. Schools should diligently review this Electronic Announcement and its attachments for familiarity with the changes and requirements to ensure compliance.
GENERAL AND VARIED ANNOUNCEMENTS
EA – Posted October 1, 2014 – (General). New FSA ID to Replace Federal Student Aid PIN
ED announces a major new initiative in the access to student- and borrower-based Websites related to Federal Student Aid (FSA). This modification will implement user-selected usernames and passwords as a replacement for the current FSA PIN. The new FSA ID will offer enhanced functionality to allow for a single sign-on process for most of FSA’s systems. This conversion will eliminate the need for users to enter individual personal identifiers, e.g., Social Security number, date of birth, etc. This change is a further effort to comply with industry security standards and best practices. The conversion to the FSA ID is scheduled to occur in the spring of 2015. More details will be provided by ED as the time of implementation approaches.
EA – Posted October 1, 2014 – (Loans). Loan Servicing Information – Navient Begins Servicing on October 13, 2014
The financial aid community is reminded of the start of loan servicing by Navient on October 13, 2014. Navient is formerly a part of Sallie Mae. The new Navient company will service Federal Direct Loans, older Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Programs loans owned by ED, FFEL loans owned by other entities, and a majority of Sallie Mae private loans that were made prior to this servicing change date. Contact information is provided in this EA for those who may be interested in more details.
EA – Posted November 21, 2014 – (COD System). 150% Direct Subsidized Loan Limit: Electronic Announcement #16 – Important Reminders About COD Reporting Responsibilities for 150% Calculations
This announcement is used to again accentuate the importance of accurate and timely reporting of students’ Direct Loan information to the Common Origination and Disbursement (COD) System. The point is made that schools are not only to change disbursement dates and amounts, as appropriate, but schools must also change certain key data such as award amounts, loan periods, and academic year dates. This EA also contains a lengthy 11-page attachment with examples to illustrate the situations ED is emphasizing to schools.
EA – Posted December 23, 2014 – (General). Compliance with Program-Level Enrollment Reporting to NSLDS
Schools are informed that as of February 1, 2015, the National Direct Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) will no longer accept enrollment reporting files that are in file layout formats that are older than the new formats made available on February 27, 2014. Notices will be sent to schools’ CEOs if enrollment reporting files are rejected due to the incorrect file layout formats. This EA also stresses the importance of accuracy in reporting the Published Program Length fields in the correct format. There have been apparent errors in this data in recent submissions. Schools are also instructed, temporarily, to leave all of a student’s address fields blank when reporting campus-level enrollment if the school does not have a valid postal mailing address. ED plans to provide more information in the early part of 2015 regarding how to proceed in the future if a school does not have a valid address for a student. Schools are again encouraged to refer to the July 2014 version of the NSLDS Enrollment Reporting Guide for more detailed information.
EA – Posted December 29, 2014 – (General). TFA Information – Transition to Soft Tokens
ED provides information on the availability of an alternative to the Two-Factor Authentication (TFA) physical token that has been used for the past several years as one of the two forms of authentication required when accessing Federal Student Aid systems. There is now the option to use a “soft token,” which is an application (app) on the user’s mobile device, instead of the physical token. It will automatically generate a One-Time Password (OTP) when the app is opened. Currently, the use of the soft token is optional. However, schools will do well to review the information in this EA as it will assist in understanding the potential benefits of using the new soft tokens.
THE INFORMATION PROVIDED TO YOU IS FAME’S OPINION BASED ON OUR INTERPRETATION OF THE ISSUES AND EVENTS PROVIDED AND OUR INTERPRETATION OF THE TITLE IV REGULATIONS AS THEY MAY APPLY. FAME SHALL NOT BE LIABLE FOR ANY ERRORS CONTAINED HEREIN OR FOR ANY DAMAGES WHATSOEVER ARISING OUT OF OR RELATED TO THE USE OF THIS INFORMATION.