Problems with linking Internal Revenue Service data to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid have led to delays in processing financial aid applications and, in some cases, discouraged students from enrolling, according to the Council for Opportunity in Education. The council said many of its TRIO programs, which help low-income students get ready for college, have reported problems with the data retrieval tool. The tool links students', or their families', tax information directly to the FAFSA, but students who don't use it are often asked to provide a tax transcript for verification. Because the IRS and Education Department work on different schedules, getting the transcript has been an issue for some low-income students, and some TRIO programs have reported that students aren't enrolling because of problems processing their application, said Kimberly Jones, associate vice president for public policy at the council.
The National Association for Student Financial Aid Administrators said the delays have been frustrating, but they haven't heard from their members that the problems have blocked students' access to aid. Still, the problems are likely to persist, because the IRS processes some tax returns well after April 15 -- after many financial aid awards are made -- and retrieving the data will continue to be difficult.