Federal Government Shuts Down Financial Aid Tool Amid FAFSA Season

FAFSA FOUL: Applying for financial aid isn’t easy, and it might only be getting harder (for now, that is). On March 9, the federal government confirmed it had unexpectedly shut down the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which automatically fills in a student’s FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) with specific required information, such as household tax numbers. According to POLITICO, it is not certain why the tool was removed; however, the IRS and Education Department released a statement calling the move, “a precautionary step following concerns that information from the tool could potentially be misused by identity thieves.” The tool is expected to be “unavailable for several weeks.”

Without the Data Retrieval Tool, many students might struggle with manually completing the FAFSA application, which is required for students to receive financial aid. Especially concerning is the timing of the tool’s absence—it’s currently one of the busiest FAFSA application seasons.

“We are greatly concerned that the Department of Education took so long to put out a statement about what was happening with the tool,” Carrie Warick, director of policy and advocacy for the National College Access Network, told Politico. “Many of our students count on this tool, so it’s important for our organizations to be able to provide them with information about what’s going on.”

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