Applying for college financial aid may take more time and work now, after the U.S. Department of Education and the Internal Revenue Service recently shut down an online service that allowed families to import information from their federal income tax forms directly into the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
The service, called the “Data Retrieval Tool,” was shut down in late March, after the two agencies discovered a potential data breach in the service, which the IRS and Department of Education launched in 2010.
Because the service has been shut down, families applying for college financial aid will have to fill in family income and tax information manually, using copies of their 2015 tax returns.
Anna Krieghbaum, Financial Aid Specialist at Salina Area Technical College, said that process will take more time than automatically retrieving the data.
She added that the loss of the Data Retrieval Tool affects not only first-time college students, but also those renewing their financial aid, and people trying to enroll in or update income-driven payment plans.
“What this means is you have to plan on this process taking more time, and that means students and their families should start the application process sooner than they might have in the past,” Krieghbaum said.
People who don’t otherwise have access to their 2015 income tax returns can download copies at www.irs.gov/transcript or have them mailed out by calling 1-800-908-9946.
The IRS and Department of Education say they don’t plan to put the Data Retrieval Tool back into operation until at least Oct. 1.
Story by: Mike Strand / Salina Area Technical College]