ACE and 25 other higher education associations expressed “grave concern” in an April 12 letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos about the recent suspension of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data tool that makes the student financial aid application process quicker and more accurate for students and borrowers.
The letter notes that the IRS and the Department of Education have announced that the data retrieval tool (DRT) will remain unavailable to student aid applicants and certain borrowers in repayment for the remainder of the award year, and is not expected to be operational until Oct. 1, at the earliest.
“This extreme delay will have a profound impact on low-income students applying (or reapplying) for federal financial aid and borrowers applying for income-based repayment plans,” the letter states. “The consequences of suspending the DRT undermine the benefits of the recent shift to using Prior-Prior Year income and tax data. We have already seen the negative impact of the loss of this tool, as students and families have experienced unnecessary confusion and states have been forced to delay application deadlines.”
Inside Higher Ed noted in a story April 10 that some researchers have found evidence suggesting the tool’s removal may be contributing to a slowdown in application rates, and that financial aid advisors say the more burdensome application process has delayed college decisions for many students.
Congressional leaders recently also sent a letter to DeVos, calling on the federal government to address the problems caused by the decision to disable the tool.
The letter sent by ACE notes the seriousness of IRS concerns regarding the security of data and the possible misuse of the tool to commit tax fraud, but stresses that “this should not preclude the timely adoption of reasonable security measures or a revised system.”