What is verification?
Each year, students and their families apply for financial aid by completing a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Some applicants are asked to provide supporting documents to verify the information on the FAFSA through a process called "verification." The supporting documentation is used by the Financial Aid Office (FAO) to ensure certain information provided on the FAFSA is accurate. Because this information is used to determine need-based aid, reporting this information accurately is crucial.
The law says we are required to ask you for this information before awarding federal aid under the financial aid program rules 34CFR, Part 668.
If your FAFSA was selected, you are required to go through the verification process if you wish to receive federal, state, and/or certain types of institutional financial aid.
The following questions will be answered in the FAQ below:
- How will the Financial Aid Office notify me if my FAFSA was selected for verification?
- Who determines which students are selected for verification and why?
- What should I do if selected?
- What will happen if I don't submit the required verification documents?
- Can my financial aid change as a result of verification?
- What if the information on my FAFSA is wrong? Do I need to change it?
- How will I know when verification of my FAFSA has been completed?
- What documentation is needed from me and my family to complete the verification process?
- Is there a way to simplify this process by not having to request my IRS tax return transcript?
- Is everyone eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool within the FAFSA?
- What if the semester billing deadline from the Bursar's Office passes before verification can be completed?
- What can I do to make sure the verification information I provide is accurate and complete?
A: The manner in which you are notified is determined by your student status:
- New, first-time BW students will receive a paper letter mailed to their home as well as an email notification listing which documents are needed. New students may also receive an initial financial aid award letter which indicates the FAFSA was selected for verification with a statement printed directly on the award letter, as well as a special notice inserted with the award letter documents.
- Returning BW students will receive an email notification, sent to their BW email address, listing which documents are needed. Returning students will not receive a financial aid award letter until the verification process has been completed.
It's important to refer to the communication from us that tells you specifically what documents are needed from you. The process is not the same for all students.
A: The U.S. Department of Education selects a group of applications because certain FAFSA information appears inconsistent; others are selected at random. In addition, the FAO has an obligation to select an applicant for verification if FAFSA data appears incorrect. For academic years 2011-2012 and earlier, 33% of all students who file a FAFSA nationwide are selected. Starting with the 2012-2013 academic year, the U.S. Department of Education has reduced the amount of information needed to complete the verification process for all students, instead using a "targeted selection of items based upon each student's characteristics."
There are various reasons why a FAFSA was selected for verification. Perhaps the FAFSA included estimates of federal income tax information and the actual information now needs to be confirmed. Or maybe the FAFSA was submitted with data that appears inconsistent or unusual, or includes the type of information that is frequently misreported.
A: You must provide our office with the required documentation to show that the FAFSA information is accurate. Respond to the request as soon as you are able.The information that will be required may be different for each student, so you need to make sure you carefully read the email/letter we send you so you know exactly what is needed from you/your family.
A: If you are a new student to Baldwin Wallace, we will send you an initial financial aid award letter even though you may not have completed verification. However, financial aid cannot be released to your BW student account with the Bursar's Office at the beginning of the academic year until verification of your FAFSA is complete. Please know that merit scholarships and other awards that are not based on financial information can be released.
If you are a returning Baldwin Wallace student, you will not receive a financial aid award until verification of your FAFSA has been completed.
A: New students who received an initial financial aid award before verification was completed was based on information you provided on the FAFSA. Federal programs such as the Federal Pell Grant, Federal SEOG Grant, Federal Perkins Loans, Federal Work-Study, and Federal Direct Loans have strict eligibility requirements, and may be affected if the information reported on your FAFSA is incorrect. The Ohio College Opportunity Grant and BW Grant are also dependent on FAFSA information, so these may be adjusted accordingly as well.
A: If the information you provide to our office does not match the information you provided on your FAFSA, the FAO will make corrections to your FAFSA on your behalf.
A: When verification of your FAFSA is complete, you will be notified in one of the following ways: 1) you will receive your first award letter of the academic year; 2) you will receive a revised award letter; or 3) you will receive other communication from our staff.
A: All students who were selected for verification must at least submit the 2013-14 Verification Worksheet (#3).
Additional required documentation may include the following (note: the documentation is year-specific. Make sure you are using the form for the correct academic year):
- Food Stamps Received Verification Form (#19) and a statement from your local county Department of Job & Family Services confirming receipt of SNAP (food stamps)
- Child Support Paid Verification Form (#20)
- Copy of W-2 form(s) from each source of employment, for the student, spouse (if applicable), and parent(s)/stepparent(s) of dependent students (2011 W2s for the 2012-13 academic year; 2012 W2s for the 2013-14 academic year)
- Official tax return transcript from the IRS - click to order online through the IRS website or call the IRS Tax Transcript Order Line at 1-800-908-9946. (2011 Federal Tax Return Transcript for the 2012-13 academic year; 2012 Federal Tax Return Transcript for the 2013-14 academic year.)
A: Why yes, there is! Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool option in the FAFSA for both student and parents (of dependent students).
Using the IRS Data Retrieval option to view and transfer your tax information into your FAFSA will minimize the chance of being selected for verification, provided you don't change the information that is imported.
The IRS Data Retrieval Option will be available as part of the FAFSA after February 1, 2013 (for the 2013-14 academic year). Please allow two weeks after filing your 2012 Federal tax returns before your information is available to import via the IRS Data Retrieval option.
The BW Office of Financial Aid strongly recommends that returning students/families file their Federal Tax Return with the IRS as soon as possible, and then submit the 2012-13 or 2013-14 FAFSA online at least two weeks later.
A: Under certain conditions, some applicants will not be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval option and will be required to submit an official tax transcript from the IRS to our office. These conditions are:
when the student (or parent/stepparent of dependent students) did not use the IRS Data Retrieval option when filing the initial 2012-2013 FAFSA or through the FAFSA on the Web correction process;
when student, spouse (if applicable), and/or parent/stepparent(s) of dependent students' information imported into the student's FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval option was subsequently changed;
when the parents of a dependent student filed separate tax returns. (An official tax transcript from the IRS will be required for each parent/stepparent);
when a married student and his or her spouse filed separate tax returns. (An official tax transcript from the IRS will be required for both the student and his or her spouse);
when the student, spouse (if applicable), or parent/stepparent(s), filed an amended tax return;
when the student or parent/stepparent(s) of dependent students had a change in marital status after the end of the tax year on December 31, 2012; and
when the student, spouse (if applicable), and/or parent/stepparent(s) of dependent students filed a foreign tax return.
A: The amount of time needed to complete the verification process varies from student to student. The FAO will not be responsible for any finance charges the Bursar's Office may assess if your financial aid cannot be released due to an unverified FAFSA. We strongly recommend that you complete the verification process as soon as possible!
- Carefully read the notification you received from the FAO and the verification worksheet. When completing the worksheet, respond to every question. Do not leave anything blank. If the correct answer is zero, write a zero.
- Submit every document requested. Make sure we can identify the student to whom the documents belong by including the student name and the BW Student ID or SSN at the top of each page.
- Do not submit unrequested documents. Do not submit tax worksheets or tax year comparison reports. Also, do not submit state tax returns.
- Keep your originals - send us copies.
- If you are required to submit a copy of your taxes, be sure to submit the tax return transcript from the IRS, not the tax account transcript.
- Respond promptly to requests for information, be it the initial request, or follow-up request due to missing or incomplete information.
If you have additional questions regarding the verification process, please contact the FAO at firstname.lastname@example.org or 440-826-2108.