Mistakes (on the FAFSA)

At the 2016 NASFAA conference they discussed double digit “mistakes” in FAFSA applications where it was indicated a tax return was not filed while it really was.

I found “mistakes” coming from a different aspect of the FAFSA.

I have in the town next to mine a Financial Aid Consultant. I call him Z. His company has a web site and he goes on a “local seminar tour.” This consists of a local library tour where he offers a free 1 hour lecture on how to beat the high cost of college. Some high schools use him for their college night.

His company charges $1,195 for new clients and $495 for returning clients. For the FAFSA and CSS he charges $1,495. He charges $495 for loan consultations including loan forgiveness, disability, entrance counseling, etc.

At a USA funds meeting I noted that he had at least two other employees so business is booming.

Company Z has said in it’s brochure that they specialize in separated and divorced parents.

They cater to upper middle class parents.

I have written to Department of Education Inspector General. They told me unless I have proof of something they are unable to pursue it.

We have at my school very limited institutional funds. I had a slew of students who were eligible were divorced and or separated.

I added a requirement that said we require both parents income even if they are divorced and or separated.

First I began to find tax returns of (Divorced and separated parents) filed separate with the same address. I would get a standard separation agreement you can get on the internet notarized. I found the income of the parent not filed on the FAFSA or CSS was six figures and up in many cases. I would get tax returns with P.O. Boxes as address. I would ask for utility bills and one parent could not do it in many cases.

I was not heartless and if it was clear cut the parents were not together I used just one income. I would find parents of middle and lower incomes would be truthful in most cases. I found some of the upper middle class parents would often be questionable.

So I gather the consultant in the town next to mine does a nice business for the upper middle class parents.

I ask for both incomes ONLY for our limited institutional aid. I try and keep an open mind but let a committee make decisions. I sometimes tell the parents when I get them on the phone that by filling separate tax returns they are placed on a higher tax rate and pay often thousands more in taxes then they would have filling a married tax return.

I am not the FBI but want my limited funds to go to the right group of students and not just the parents that hire a consultant to manipulate their data to get more aid. This seems like another area where “mistakes” can occur.

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