As usual, the Federal Student Aid (FSA) Conference here in Las Vegas is well attended. It is nice to catch up with so many friends from schools and the Department of Education. It is also a great opportunity to here about the upcoming initiatives for FSA and what FSA thinks schools should be focusing on.
The first day of the conference opened with a General Session and welcome. The presenters for this session were FSA COO Jim Runcie, Jeff Baker, and Lynn Mahaffie. They provided various updates concerning Department of Education’s Title IV activities and initiatives. They also mentioned that there will be an experimental site announcement in an upcoming federal register. Also, FSA encouraged schools to adopt the Shopping Sheet that was introduced last year. While it is still not a requirement except for military students, currently 19,000 schools have signed up to use it.
One hot topic was the impact of the unconstitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on student aid. As you may recall, last term, the Supreme Court overturned DOMA and, as a result, the federal government must recognize marriages between same sex couples for federal benefit purposes. For aid purposes, this means that if a student (or parent of a dependent student) is legally married they would file the FASFA as married, regardless of gender. This is effective in the current year and appropriate language will be included in the 2014/2015 FAFSA. Students (or parents) who are in a same sex marriage, but who already filed their 2013/2014 FAFSA, but could have filed married at the time they filed, may now correct their ISIR and file married. They may correct marital status, but are not required to. New filers must file married and a DCL will be coming out early next week with guidance. “Legally married” applies regardless of State of current residence. Conversely, if parents aren’t married but living together they will be required to report both incomes.
New on the verification horizon, the Department has eliminated the verification group V2, which required verification of SNAP benefits and added a new Group V6 that will require verification of income in cases where income and household size are inconsistent.
The upcoming negotiated rulemaking sessions were also discussed, and special note was made of the upcoming sessions related to VAWA and the Clery Act regulations, as well as the use of third parties to disburse Title IV aid.