Targeted verification

Office of Finanical Assitance responds to students’ concerns over FAFSA verification process

UIS Observer Staff, Staff Writer

The UIS Office of Financial Assistance met with the Journal to address the concerns of UIS students who may feel targeted by the seemingly prying process of verification, which entails the submission of additional documentation by financial aid applicants to verify the accuracy of the data submitted on their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

After several UIS students voiced concerns that the UIS Office of Financial Assistance may be selecting particular students for verification based upon ethnic indicators, the Journal made an inquiry of the verification procedure carried out by the UIS Office of Financial Assistance, and soon after interviewed the Acting Director of Financial Assistance, Carolyn Schloemann. 

“The UIS Office of Financial Assistance does not select students for verification; that is done by the U.S. Department of Education,” said Schloemann.

The Department of Education’s Central Processing System (CPS) is, indeed, responsible for selecting which applicants are to be verified, according to the 2017-2018 Application and Verification Guide (AVG)—a regulatory handbook composed by the U.S. Department of Education to assist financial aid administrators.

Nonetheless, the UIS Office of Financial Assistance and other such offices across the nation have considerable latitude in selecting FAFSA applicants for verification, as aid administrators are permitted, by law, to use “professional judgement” when administering financial aid, according to the 2017-2018 AVG. 

Some institutions of higher education verify 100% of their students’ FAFSAs, according to

“In some cases [financial aid administrators at colleges], not the CPS, will select a student for verification. [Financial aid administrators at colleges] must verify any information [they] have reason to believe is incorrect on any application. At [their] discretion, [financial aid administrators at colleges] may require a student to verify any FAFSA information and to provide any reasonable documentation in accordance with consistently applied school policies,” states the 2017-2018 AVG.

Financial aid administrators in the UIS Office of Financial Assistance use discretion, said Schloemann; however, they do so in accordance with the law.

Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which facilitates the accurate transfer of one’s tax return info to the FAFSA, may decrease one’s odds of being selected for verification.

“In the event that the student or family is unable or chooses not to use the data retrieval process, we are required by law to have the individuals who file taxes request an IRS tax return transcript for the tax year that is necessary,” said Schloemann.

Schloemann stressed to students that they should be scrupulous when completing the FAFSA to avoid having to resolve conflicting information.

“I can’t stress enough to students the importance of reading and making sure that you’re understanding this document that you’re filling out before you submit it,” said Schloemann. “If your dropping your document off in-person, ask [the representative] to take a look at it; and if you’re unsure about whether that person has thoroughly looked at it, ask to see your financial aid advisor.”

Ivette Ortiz, a member of UIS’s Organization of Latin American Students, responded to Schloemann’s assertions about the verification process.

“While it is a sign of relief that UIS is not the one picking the students to be verified, it is still a concern that the Department of Education is the one choosing people. They don’t give specific details on why students get selected. The way they are picking out certain students for the verification process seemed to only target certain ethnic minorities on this campus even though it is supposed to be random,” said Ortiz.

Those who would like to learn more about the Department of Education’s regulations regarding verification can download the 2017-2018 Application and Verification Guide at