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Student Aid Verification Process Falls Short – Inside Higher Ed


Inspector general’s report backs up complaints from student aid administrators about income-verification process. But Education Department says it is already carrying out several recommendations.

The U.S. Education Department’s process for verifying the accuracy of student aid applications has no reasonable assurance of identifying errors, a Thursday report from the department’s inspector general found.

The report is the inspector general’s first look in several years at the process, which requires students to confirm the accuracy of their family’s financial information. But it backs up what financial aid administrators have reported recently about verification, which is widely seen as an obstacle for low-income students to get the assistance they need to attend college.

Colleges are supposed to use the verification process to make sure students are receiving the correct amount of federal aid. But additional bureaucratic hurdles can mean many students never complete the application process.

Among the issues identified by the inspector general: the Education Department hadn’t evaluated which income data it used to verify the accuracy of financial aid applications — items like adjusted gross income, income taxes paid and the total number of family members in the household. But the department couldn’t provide analysis showing that those data elements were most prone to introduce errors in a student aid award.

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