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At least 165,000 students may have been denied financial aid because of a confusing update to a federal application form, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The Chronicle reports that a problem with the online version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid — better known as the FAFSA — may have caused thousands of students to misreport their family's income. An entry box that asked for only full dollar amounts may be adding millions of dollars to a student's application and taking away their chance of receiving a federal grant or loan, according to The Chronicle:
The problem, which was picked up by an astute aid administrator, stems from a decimal point. For the 2014-15 Fafsa, the government expanded several income and asset fields in the online form to accommodate higher incomes. But some lower-income filers are missing the .00 outside the box, and entering cents into the text field. When they do that, an income of $22,852.19, for example, is converted into $2,285,219.
Jeff Baker, the Department of Education's policy liaison for the Office of Federal Student Aid, called the misreporting "a serious problem" at a meeting of student-aid administrators last week. According to The Chronicle, Baker "estimated that a majority of colleges have at least one affected student" and "a few have hundreds."
Any FAFSA errors that are caught will have to be reprocessed by the student's college in order to receive their revised federal aid package, The Chronicle reports.
Here's what the confusing section of the new FAFSA looked like. Note that the text asks applications to "Report whole dollar amounts with no cents."
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