Summary: FAFSA Q#28, Drug Conviction Eligibility Modification for Blank Responses
Author: General Manager: SFA Student Channel
Posted on February 24, 2000
TO: All Destination Points
FROM: U.S. Department of Education
RE: FAFSA Q#28, Drug Conviction Eligibility Modification for Blank Responses
To alleviate confusion for students, and in response to concerns from the financial aid community about unintended consequences of students leaving the Drug Conviction Eligibility question (FAFSA Question 28) blank, we are changing how the Central Processing System (CPS) handles a blank response to this question.
We have determined that most students who leave the Drug Conviction Eligibility question blank on their FAFSAs do so because they skip the question and forget to go back and answer it. They report they are not leaving it blank because they do not know the answer to the question or do not know their drug conviction status.
We are taking the following specific actions to address this problem:
Action 1. Beginning the week of March 6, 2000, students who leave Question 28 blank will no longer receive a SAR C Flag; however, we have changed the SAR/ISIR comment text to stress to students who have a prior drug conviction that they must answer Question 28. The SAR/ISIR comment that is generated when a student submits a blank response to FAFSA Question 28 (comment #53) is being revised as follows:
You left Item 28 blank. IF YOU HAVE A DRUG CONVICTION, you MUST answer Item 28. Your failure to accurately answer this question could result in legal action against you by the U.S. Government. Use the enclosed worksheet to determine your answer to this question. Then correct Part 2 of your Student Aid Report, sign it, and submit it. If you need help or have questions, call 1-800-4FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or visit www.fafsa.ed.gov/q28. A drug conviction does not necessarily disqualify you from receiving student aid.
Action 2. We are changing the automated voice response system at the Student Aid Information Center to record and send the student's telephonic response to Question 28 to the CPS. The CPS will send an updated transaction, with the correction, to all schools listed on the student's FAFSA. We expect that this feature will be operational by the end of March.
Beginning on March 10, 2000, students can call the Student Aid Information Center and ask the operator to change their answers to Question 28 from a blank to a value of 1, 2, or 3. Like other changes made over the phone, students will need to provide their Social Security Number, Data Release Number (DRN), and date of birth to the operator before the change can be made.
Also, beginning on March 10, students with PINs may correct the answer to Question 28 through Corrections on the Web at www.fafsa.ed.gov.
SAR/ISIR comment #53 will be changed when these new features are implemented, as follows:
You left Item 28 blank. IF YOU HAVE A DRUG CONVICTION, you MUST answer Item 28. Your failure to accurately answer this question could result in legal action against you by the U.S. Government. Use the enclosed worksheet to determine your answer to this question. You can correct this item by calling 1-800-4FED-AID (1-800-433-3243), going to www.fafsa.ed.gov, or by using Part 2 of this report. A drug conviction does not necessarily disqualify you from receiving student aid.
Action 3. The new comment text above (Comment #53) will be released as part of EDExpress version 6.2, due for release in late April 2000. The current EDExpress software prints whatever value is received in the SAR C Flag field on the ISIR so no changes are needed to the software for that change.
Action 4. You may rely on the Department of Education to notify you via the ISIR of any changes a student makes to Question 28. Briefly, schools can expect the following to occur:
If a student changes the response to Question 28 to a 1, the school will see this value in ISIR field #33, record layout position #176. Because a response of 1 indicates that the student does not have an eligibility problem due to a prior drug conviction, we will not set a SAR C Flag associated with this question.
If a student changes the response to Question 28 to a 2 (a 2 response means that the student has a drug conviction that affects eligibility for part, but not all, of the award year), the school will also see this value in ISIR field #33, record layout position #176. In addition, the record will contain comment #54 in ISIR field #259, in record layout positions 1409-1468. These records will also contain a SAR C Flag in ISIR field #141, record layout position #560.
Finally, if a student changes the response to Question 28 to a 3 (a 3 response means that the student has a drug conviction that makes him or her ineligible for Title IV aid for the entire award year), the school will see this value in ISIR field #33, record layout position #176. In addition, the record will contain comment #58 in ISIR field #259, in record layout positions 1409-1468. These records will also contain a SAR C Flag in ISIR field #141, record layout position #560.
You may disregard all SAR C Flags produced by the CPS because the applicant left Question 28 blank, including SARs received prior to this notice. We are currently exploring the feasibility of reprocessing applicant records and sending out new SARs/ISIRs with SAR C Flags removed for students who failed to answer Question 28.
If the ISIR has a blank in question 28 (or a response of 1), you may award and disburse Title IV aid to the student provided he or she is otherwise eligible. The only exception is if your financial aid office has specific information that the student has a drug conviction that affects his or her eligibility for the 2000-01 award year. In this case you must withhold federal student aid until the eligibility problem has been resolved.
It is the student's responsibility (not the school's) to respond correctly to Question 28 by contacting the Department of Education; however, we encourage schools to remind students to answer Question 28 in their general information activities and to promote distribution of the Department's Drug Conviction pamphlet. Students may change their answer to Question 28 by calling the Student Aid Information Center, by correcting their paper SAR, by using Corrections on the Web, or by working with the financial aid administrator to make changes through EDExpress.
We hope these changes help your students and your institution better handle this question. If you have questions about the CPS, please contact CPS Customer Service at 800/330-5947, option 2, or via email at CPS@NCS.COM. If you have technical questions about our SFA systems and software, you may want to subscribe to our e-mail list serve, SFATECH. For more information about SFATECH, including how to subscribe, look on-line at www.ed.gov/sfatech/listserv.html.
Jeanne Van Vlandren
General Manager for Students
Student Financial Assistance