FinAid Logo The SmartStudent Guide to Financial Aid
Site MapAbout FinAid
Saving for College
Military Aid
Other Types of Aid
Financial Aid Applications
Answering Your Questions
Beyond Financial Aid

Return to
Professional Judgment
Authority to Request Documentation

Financial aid administrators who deal with irate parents and parents who are trying to game the system often are faced with demands to prove that they have the authority to request a particular piece of documentation. Tax protestors are particularly prone to demand such proof. The following are citations from the FAFSA, the higher education act and the regulations giving the financial aid administrator the authority to request any documentation he or she feels is necessary (for verification and/or the resolution conflicting information). Also included are the rules concerning conflicting information that require the college to resolve the conflicting information and to refer fraud cases to the Office of the Inspector General at the US Department of Education.

Authority to Request Documentation

Step Seven of the FAFSA
If you are the parent or the student, by signing this application you agree, if asked, to provide information that will verify the accuracy of your completed form. This information may include U.S. or state income tax forms that you filed or are required to file. Also, you certify that you understand that the Secretary of Education has the authority to verify information reported on this application with the Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies. If you sign any document related to the federal student aid programs electronically using a Personal Identification Number (PIN), you certify that you are the person identified by the PIN and have not disclosed that PIN to anyone else. If you purposely give false or misleading information, you may be fined up to $20,000, sent to prison, or both.

Section 479A(a) of the Higher Education Act
In addition, nothing in this title shall be interpreted as limiting the authority of the student financial aid administrator in such cases to request and use supplementary information about the financial status or personal circumstances of eligible applicants in selecting recipients and determining the amount of awards under this title. No student or parent shall be charged a fee for collecting, processing, or delivering such supplementary information.

34 CFR 668.51(b)
Applicant responsibility. If the Secretary or the institution requests documents or information from an applicant under this subpart, the applicant shall provide the specified documents or information.

34 CFR 668.54(a)(3)
If an institution has reason to believe that any information on an application used to calculate an EFC is inaccurate, it shall require the applicant to verify the information that it has reason to believe is inaccurate.

34 CFR 668.54(a)(5)
An institution or the Secretary may require an applicant to verify any data elements that the institution or the Secretary specifies.

34 CFR 668.60(a)
An institution shall require an applicant selected for verification to submit to it, within the period of time it or the Secretary specifies, the documents set forth in section 668.57 that are requested by the institution or the Secretary.

34 CFR 668.60(b)(1)
If an applicant fails to provide the requested documentation within a reasonable time period established by the institution or by the Secretary

  1. The institution may not
    1. Disburse any additional Federal Perkins Loan, FSEOG or funds to the applicant;
    2. Continue to employ or allow an employer to employ the applicant under FWS;
    3. Certify the applicant's Federal Stafford Loan application or originate the applicant's Direct Subsidized Loan; or
    4. Process Federal Stafford Loan or Direct Subsidized Loan Direct Loan proceeds for the applicant;
  2. The institution shall return to the lender, or to the Secretary, in the case of a Direct Subsidized Loan, any Federal Stafford Loan or Direct Subsidized Loan proceeds that otherwise would be payable to the applicant; and
  3. The applicant shall repay to the institution any Federal Perkins Loan, FSEOG, or payments received for that award year;

34 CFR 668.60(c)(2)
If the applicant does not provide to the institution the requested documentation and, if necessary, a verified SAR or the institution does not receive a verified ISIR, within the additional time period referenced in paragraph (c)(1) of this section, the applicant

  1. Forfeits the Federal Pell Grant for the award year; and
  2. Shall return any Federal Pell Grant payments previously received for that award year to the Secretary.

34 CFR 668.60(d)
The Secretary may determine not to process any subsequent application for Federal Pell Grant, and an institution, if directed by the Secretary, may not process any subsequent application for campus-based, Federal Direct Stafford/Ford Loan, or Federal Stafford Loan program assistance of an applicant who has been requested to provide documentation until the applicant provides the documentation or the Secretary decides that there is no longer a need for the documentation.

Requirement to Identify and Resolve Conflicting Information

If a family refuses to supply required information, the college is barred from disbursing federal student aid according to the US Department of Education rules concerning conflicting information.

2008-09 Application and Verification Guide
Page AVG-82 of the 2008-09 Application and Verification Guide, US Department of Education: "Conflicting information must be resolved before you can disburse federal student aid." And on page AVG-101: "If your school has conflicting information concerning a student.s eligibility or you have any reason to believe a student.s application information is incorrect, you must resolve the discrepancies before disbursing FSA funds." And on page AVG-102: "You may not disburse aid until you have resolved conflicting information, which you must do for any student as long as he is at your school. Even if the conflict concerns a previous award year, you must still investigate it. You have resolved the matter when you have determined which data are correct; this might simply be confirming that an earlier determination was the right one. Of course, you must document your findings in the student.s file and explain why, not simply assert that, your decision is justified."

Page AVG-102 also indicates that colleges are required to refer fraud cases to the Office of the Inspector General at the US Department of Education: "If you suspect that a student, employee, or other individual has misreported information or altered documentation to fraudulently obtain federal funds, you should report your suspicions and provide any evidence to the Office of Inspector General."

34 CFR 668.16(f)
Develops and applies an adequate system to identify and resolve discrepancies in the information that the institution receives from different sources with respect to a student's application for financial aid under Title IV, HEA programs. In determining whether the institution's system is adequate, the Secretary considers whether the institution obtains and reviews --

  1. All student aid applications, need analysis documents, Statements of Educational Purpose, Statements of Registration Status, and eligibility notification documents presented by or on behalf of each applicant;
  2. Any documents, including any copies of State and Federal income tax returns, that are normally collected by the institution to verify information received from the student or other sources; and
  3. Any other information normally available to the institution regarding a student's citizenship, previous educational experience, documentation of the student's social security number, or other factors relating to the student's eligibility for funds under the Title IV, HEA programs;

34 CFR 668.16(g)(1)
(g) Refers to the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Education for investigation --

  1. After conducting the review of an application provided for under paragraph (f) of this section, any credible information indicating that an applicant for Title IV, HEA program assistance may have engaged in fraud or other criminal misconduct in connection with his or her application. The type of information that an institution must refer is that which is relevant to the eligibility of the applicant for Title IV, HEA program assistance, or the amount of the assistance. Examples of this type of information are --
    1. False claims of independent student status;
    2. False claims of citizenship;
    3. Use of false identities;
    4. Forgery of signatures or certifications; and
    5. False statements of income; and

Section 490(a) of the Higher Education Act
(a) IN GENERAL. -- Any person who knowingly and willfully embezzles, misapplies, steals, obtains by fraud, false statement, or forgery, or fails to refund any funds, assets, or property provided or insured under this title or attempts to so embezzle, misapply, steal, obtain by fraud, false statement or forgery, or fail to refund any funds, assets, or property, shall be fined not more than $20,000 or imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or both, except if the amount so embezzled, misapplied, stolen, obtained by fraud, false statement, or forgery, or failed to be refunded does not exceed $200, then the fine shall not be more than $5,000 and imprisonment shall not exceed one year, or both.
(d) OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE. -- Any person who knowingly and willfully destroys or conceals any record relating to the provision of assistance under this title or attempts to so destroy or conceal with intent to defraud the United States or to prevent the United States from enforcing any right obtained by subrogation under this part, shall upon conviction thereof, be fined not more than $20,000 or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.


Home | Loans | Scholarships | Savings | Military Aid | Other Types of Aid | Financial Aid Applications
Answering Your Questions | Calculators | Beyond Financial Aid | Site Map | About FinAid®
Copyright © 2019 by FinAid Page, LLC. All rights reserved.
Mark Kantrowitz, Publisher