On September 1, 2021, we published a Federal Register notice (Vol. 86, No. 167 p. 49002–49006) announcing the 2022–2023 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) verification items for applicants selected by the Department, as well as the acceptable documentation for those items. As specified in the Federal Register notice, the 2022-2023 Verification Tracking Groups are the same as those for the 2021–2022 award year, however for applicants placed in Verification Tracking Groups V4 and V5, verification of the applicant’s high school completion status will not be required as high school completion was removed from the list of items to be verified for the 2022-2023 award year. In addition, the Electronic Announcement (EA) published on January 15, 2021, provides COVID-19 flexibilities and waivers relating to verification. We continue to consider additional flexibilities to the verification process for the 2022-2023 award year to help institutions and applicants deal with the ongoing challenges resulting from the novel coronavirus disease (COVID–19) pandemic. Any additional flexibilities will be announced in a future publication.
High School Completion Status
As outlined in the September 1, 2021, Federal Register notice, the Department removed high school completion status as a verification item under the V4 and V5 tracking groups starting with the 2022-2023 FAFSA processing year. As a result, institutions will no longer be required to obtain high school completion documentation to complete V4 or V5 verification. Further communication will be provided to the community with regards to any additional operational and system updates including any modifications to the V4/V5 verification results reporting process in FAA Access to CPS Online.
We do want to remind institutions that removing the high school completion status requirement from the verification process has not in any way removed or altered an institution’s obligation under 34 CFR 668.16(p) to evaluate the validity of a student’s high school diploma if your institution has reason to believe that the high school diploma is not valid or was not obtained from an entity that provides secondary school education (For more information please refer to the FSA Handbook, Volume 1, Chapter 1).
Departmental Verification Selection
Traditionally, the Department used a Classification and Regression Trees model to select up to 30% of all FAFSA applicants for verification by considering which characteristics were most associated with risk of error or fraud. However, in October 2018 the Department started using a Machine Learning Model (MLM) to determine an efficient verification rate that reduced the burden on applicants, their families, and institutions while maintaining the value of improper payments of Title IV Federal student aid captured. So, beginning October 1, 2018, the Department verified 22% of FAFSA filers, an 8% decrease from the previous year.
The Department conducted a cost-benefit analysis in 2020, and the results demonstrated that if the Department verified above 18% of FAFSA filers, the costs of doing so would exceed the benefits. Therefore, in October 2020 the verification rate was further reduced to 18%, a reduction of 4% from the previous rate. The MLM will be retrained yearly and serve as a tool to continue reducing the burden of verification while responsibly controlling for improper payments of Title IV Federal student aid.
The Central Processing System (CPS) will set a Verification Tracking Flag on the Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR) indicating when an applicant is selected by the Department for verification. The ISIR will also indicate the Verification Tracking Group for the applicant. The Verification Tracking Group provides which FAFSA data elements institutions are required to verify to determine eligibility for Title IV Federal student aid.
Suggested Verification Text
In APPENDIX A, we provide the suggested text for each of the 2022–2023 verification items in the September 1, 2021, Federal Register notice. While use by an institution of the suggested text fulfills the regulatory verification requirements, institutions are not required to use the Department’s suggested text and formats, except as noted below. Instead, institutions may develop and use their own text, forms, documents, statements, and certifications that are specific to the items required to be verified for a particular student or group of students. The one exception is that institutions must use the exact language in the "Statement of Educational Purpose" in APPENDIX A for students who are placed in Verification Tracking Groups V4 or V5.
We suggest that each page of an institutionally developed verification document include appropriate headings and numbering that identify the item(s) being verified. Institutions should ensure that the verification document collects the student’s name, ID number, and other identifying information, and that each page is identified as belonging to that student. Also, institutions may have difficulty matching the tax account information with the student because the last names may be different or because portions of the tax filer’s identifiers are redacted. Therefore, we recommend that institutions advise students to write their own name on the tax information prior to submitting it to the institution. The verification document should include any special instructions necessary so that students will know when and how documents are to be submitted to the institution. Institutions are reminded that documentation obtained as part of the verification process must be maintained at the institution for at least the required Title IV record retention period as outlined in Volume 2 of the Federal Student Aid Handbook.
With your support, we are confident that together we can continue to reduce the burden of verification on applicants, their families, and institutions while maintaining the integrity of the Title IV Federal student aid programs.
Deputy Assistant Secretary for
Policy, Planning, and Innovation