On March 3, students looking to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) were met with a surprise: The online application’s data-retrieval tool, which helps to automatically enter information from their tax returns, had malfunctioned. Performing the process manually could take weeks.
Following days of silence, the U.S. Department of Education and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) finally released a joint statement saying the data-retrieval tool would be unavailable for “several weeks.” On Friday, a Department of Education representative said there were no additional updates.
According to the joint statement, the IRS suspended the data-retrieval tool “as a precautionary step following concerns that information from the tool could potentially be misused by identity thieves.”
Wednesday marks the FAFSA deadline for a number of colleges and universities, after which students will not be eligible to receive aid. It is also the deadline for the state of Texas. In response to the data glitch, Raymund A. Paredes, the commissioner of Higher Education for Texas, let the state’s colleges and universities extend their FAFSA deadlines, though they are not obligated to do so. “We encourage institutions to determine a course of action that is in the best interest of their students,” Paredes wrote in a memo on Monday.