WASHINGTON — Low-income students have inadvertently presented themselves as millionaires on an application for federal financial student aid – making it less likely they will qualify for grants and loans.
The mistake stems from an online form change to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, made Jan. 1 that expanded the space to enter income. Thousands of students have since then unnecessarily entered a decimal point that the system was ignoring. That means someone with an income of $20,000.19 could inadvertently register income of $2,000,019.
The Education Department has said about 165,000 applicants have been identified as affected. The department said Monday a fix was made to the system last week and applications submitted this year are under review.
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators was encouraging applicants with questions to reach out to their institution's financial aid office.
“At a minimum, it's an inconvenience,” said Justin Draeger, president of the association. “At a maximum, it could really affect your financial aid award.”
The FAFSA form is used to obtain federal loans and grants and millions are processed annually. Some states and colleges also use it to determine eligibility for other aid.