Financial aid undergoes changes

By Nicole Nocera

There have been changes to how students and parents file for Financial Aid.

According to the Director of Financial Aid Norma McNerney, the U.S. Department of Education ended their acceptance of copies of your tax returns that are from an accountant or the copy you keep for your own records.  These changes have been made to keep fraud to a minimum.

Before students and parents would file their tax returns and submit an application for Financial Aid.  If there were a problem, the Financial Aid office would contact the student telling them they need to submit extra documents for verification.

According to McNerney, there are five verification groups: Standard Verification, SNAP Verification, Child Support Paid, Identity and Aggregate Groups.  The Standard Verification are files that are randomly selected based on the information the student provides.  SNAP Verification are records likes receipts of food stamps.  If a person does not submit information about receiving or paying child support they would go under child support verification.  If a students information looks to be false, they would go under an identity verification to make sure the applicant is really who they say they are.  Aggregate groups verification is records selected for identity criteria and standard verification criteria.

According to McNerney the verification process will change from what it has been in the past starting in the 2013-2014 school year.  Before, schools were required to verify house hold size, number of people in the household attending college, SNAP benefits and child support paid.  Schools have to do all the steps they did before in addition to verifying the high school completion status of the student and identity verification.  A student can go to the Financial Aid office in person and show their identity by showing a driver’s license or a signed statement of educational purpose.

The way a student is notified on their eligibility for Financial Aid is through their school email.  McNerney stated that they communicate with Financial Aid students electronically; that is why it is very important to activate your student email, as that is the email address we communicate directly with students.”  If a parent would like to know what is going on with their child’s financial aid status, they have to get permission from their child to receive information.  Financial Aid is only allowed to communicate with the students because of the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA).

“The changes to Financial Aid make the process a lot easier.  Before, I was confused on how to submit a FAFSA and now I know if I am in the Verification Process, I know exactly what I need to complete the process,” said student Christopher Barbieri.

April Ruth, mother of a current student said she doesn’t know what the process used to be but that she found applying for financial aid very easy.

“This is the first of my three children who are attending college.  I never applied for Financial Aid before, but I know exactly what materials I need when I file my sons FAFSA report,” said Ruth.

McNerney also says that she has received feedback from students and parents.  She states that they are confused at first, but once they realize they can link their taxes directly to the FAFSA it’s easier.

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