Volume 1

Student Eligibility


This volume of the Federal Student Aid Handbook discusses the eligibility requirements for student and parent borrowers and your responsibilities to ensure that recipients qualify for their aid awards.

Sources of Information

There are many factors you must consider when reviewing an application for aid from the FSA programs, such as whether the student is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, whether the applicant is making satisfactory academic progress, and whether they have a defaulted loan from the Direct Loan, FFEL, or Perkins Loan programs To answer these questions, you will receive information about the student from different sources, including the Department of Education’s FAFSA Processing System (FPS) for financial aid applications and the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS).

Throughout the year, the Department of Education (The Department) provides updates for schools in the form of Dear Colleague Letters (DCLs). These and other releases, such as Federal Register notices and electronic announcements, contain system updates and technical guidance, and are available on the Knowledge Center (fsapartners.ed.gov/knowledge center).

The FSA Handbook does not cover the operation of software. For schools using software provided by the Department, there are technical references on FSA Partner Connect that explain how the software operates. Schools using third-party software should consult the vendor’s reference materials for technical guidance.

Knowledge Center’s Software & Other Tools


Technical References and User Guides for:

FSA Fundamentals, a self-paced, comprehensive online guide to the Title IV programs, has been updated for domestic schools. For more information, see:

Training Workshops – 2023-24 Fundamentals Training Series | Knowledge Center

Sunset of COVID-19 Guidance and Waivers

After the President’s declaration of a national health emergency on March 13, 2020, the Department provided a variety of special guidance and regulatory flexibilities under the CARES Act and the HEROES Act. In addition, Congress passed legislation offering relief from certain statutory requirements related to the Title IV, HEA programs.

Although COVID-19 continues to affect the lives of many Americans, the urgent need for waivers and flexibilities has diminished. The COVID-19 national emergency ended on April 10, 2023, through enactment of Public Law 118-3. The COVID-19 public health emergency ended on May 11, 2023. These actions triggered the sunsetting of many waivers and flexibilities for the Title IV programs.

For more details, see the Electronic Announcement GENERAL-23-46 of June 14, 2023.

Recent Changes

Throughout this volume, we have added and updated links for easy access to regulations and other supporting guidance.

Here are some of the other significant changes to Volume 1 for 2024-2025:

Chapter 1:

  • Updated guidance on checking the validity of a high school diploma

  • Updated requirements for Eligible Career Pathway Programs

  • New Pell Enrollment Intensity measure and how to calculate it described

  • Transition from EFC to SAI

  • Transition from EFA to OFA

  • Updated guidance on Confined or Incarcerated Individuals & Prison Education Programs

Chapter 2:

  • New citizenship and eligible noncitizen documents provided and described

  • Discussion of USCIS SAVE responses updated

Chapter 3:

  • Updated guidance on Total and Permanent Disability discharges

  • Incorporated latest information on FAFSA Submission Summary Comment Codes

Chapter 4:

  • Revised discussion of how to address situations when there is not a successful match on name or date of birth

  • Updated guidance for students/contributors with no Social Security Number

Questions or comments?

We appreciate any comments that you have on Volume 1 of the FSA Handbook. We revise the text based on questions and feedback from the financial aid community, so please reach out to us about how to improve the Handbook at Contact Customer Support | Help Center (ed.gov), by clicking on “FSA Handbook” in the “topic” dropdown menu.

Last Modified: 02/28/2024 • Published: 03/28/2021