It’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again: time to talk about the new aid year and the 2019-20 FAFSA. With early FAFSA in place, it seems like we’re barely getting settled in for one aid year before the next one opens up. So, buckle up and take a ride with me as we look down the road to verification in 2019-20.
Consistency Is Good News
The good news is, there are really no changes that will affect you or your financial aid office. With the 2019-20 aid year, you’ll see no new C Codes, the elimination of 399, and verification will remain the same. You can still download the Word versions of the 2019-20 Verification Worksheets here—complete with updated dates. But since you don’t have to make a lot of (or any?) changes to your verification process, it may be the best time ever to take a step back and evaluate your current processes.
Find Opportunities to Simplify & Streamline
I’d encourage you to use this lack of change as an opportunity to simplify processes and reduce chances of errors or conflicts, not only for you and your staff, but for students as well. If you’re looking for a good place to start, consider reviewing the following processes.
One-Size-Fits-All Verification Forms
Are you using a one-size-fits-all verification form that either requires a student to supply way too much information or has them guessing at what forms to print and what questions they need to answer? Are your forms paper based?
If so, consider moving to one form for each verification item. This could limit the unnecessary collection of student information and allow your students to focus on the information they really need to provide. Breaking things down into smaller bites makes forms and processes more consumable. You could go a step further and implement a forms and document collection process that uses smart logic to determine what a student needs to complete on a given form based on their ISIR record.
Auto Zero Exclusions
Did you know there are exclusions to verify less data on a student if that student is eligible for an auto zero EFC? Are your forms and information system set up to take advantage of these exclusions?
Doing so can reduce the burden for dependent V1 students to one single data element. Less data to collect means less chance of conflicting information—potentially driving significantly faster student completion and earlier disbursements.
Dependency Question Verification
Do you have a blanket requirement for all students who answer ‘yes’ to a dependency question, other than age to supply supporting documentation? We’re not talking about clearing conflicting information here, but instead about always asking for documentation of being in foster care or homeless. If you’re doing this, ask yourself why.
Did you know that of schools who request third-party documentation for dependency questions of all students, it takes students 145% longer to collect and submit their documents? Ask yourself why and if you should continue doing it.
Household Size Exclusions
Are you always asking students to verify household size? If you are, ask yourself why you’re not utilizing household size exclusions provided by the Department of Education. Though a very simple item, household size and number in college can create unnecessary conflicting information at schools.
Instead, reduce how many questions you’re asking students, take advantage of reasonably assumable values, and no longer ask about it when it meets one of the following requirements: For a dependent student, the household size reported is two with a single, divorced, separated, or widowed parent or is three with parents who are married or are unmarried and living together. For an independent student, the number reported is two if they are married or one if they are single, divorced, separated, or widowed.
Extra Time: A Wonderful Thing for Everyone
It’s not very often that we have so few changes to respond to at the start of a new aid year. Seize the opportunity now to simplify processes, and I can guarantee it will make a huge difference throughout the year.