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What’s in a Decimal Point?

Online FAFSA Error Makes Low-Income Filers Look Like Millionaires

July 7, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

When it comes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a decimal point could make a world of difference: An update to this year’s FAFSA has cost some low-income filers a chance at some serious federal student aid.

For the 2014-15 FAFSA, the government expanded several income and asset fields in the online form to accommodate higher incomes. Herein lies the problem: Some lower-income filers are missing the .00 outside the box and entering cents into the text field. And when the do that, an income of $28,532.79, for example, is converted into $2,853,279. Big mistake. Huge. If the error isn't caught or corrected on individual forms, the filers could lose out on Pell Grants or other need-based student aid. According to Jeff Baker, policy liaison at the Education Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid, the department has already identified 165,000 individuals who've made the mistake. He's estimated that a majority of colleges have at least one affected student, while some may have hundreds. "It's a serious problem," said Baker at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators’ annual meeting. "We have to fix it." (For more on this story, click here.)

With all the headaches that typically go into applying for federal aid using the FAFSA, what are your thoughts on the current roadblocks? Why not just have filers round income to the nearest whole dollar amount? For more information on the FAFSA, the importance of applying and what you'll need before you get started, check out Scholarships.com’s Federal Aid section.

Discuss

Share your thoughts and perhaps thousands of students will benefit from your unique insight on the subject!



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Comments (3)

Sulymon Siddiq on 7/9/2014 11:17:10 AM commented:

This is the most stupid thing fafsa could do. As if these people who make higher incomes actually need to (or even qualify for) apply for aid. They all pay out of pocket.

Christian Crowder on 7/8/2014 4:37:02 PM commented:

This is all fine and well but this number will not match your tax transcripts. Then you should be on a hold until you correct the problem, no?

Nicholas Kent on 7/8/2014 4:10:29 PM commented:

Uh, isn't adding ".00" to right of the box indicating to the filers that they should round to the nearest whole dollar amount?


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