Verification is the process of confirming the accuracy of student reported data on financial aid applications. Only a portion of the U.S. student population is selected for verification. Students are notified that they are selected for verification on the FAFSA Student Aid Report (SAR). In addition, the student is notified via email to return to the financial aid portal where they are informed that he/she has been selected for verification.
The Financial Aid Office verifies only those applicants identified by the Department of Education or if there is a discrepancy or a condition which is unusual and warrants investigation. Martinsburg College systematically verifies only those data elements required by the federal government. However, the Financial Aid Administrator may request additional information if further investigation is needed to resolve a discrepancy.
The Financial Aid Office is required to resolve any discrepancies discovered in a student’s file, regardless of whether the student is selected for verification. The Financial Aid Administrator will request additional information from the student to resolve the discrepancy.
For students selected for verification, the Financial Aid Office emails communication to the student to return to the student financial aid portal where a listing the specific items needed is available and to let the student know the information may be mailed, faxed, or scanned and uploaded electronically.
In the circumstances below, student verification is not required. The Financial Aid Office documents the specific reason if any of the following applies:
- An applicant who died during the award year
- A student who does not receive Title IV funds
- Student was selected for verification after ceasing to be enrolled at the school and after all Title IV aid has disbursed.
- A resident of Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (Palau).
- A student who is incarcerated
- Applicants whose parents do not live in the United States and cannot be contacted.
- A student immigrant (however, the student must meet the citizenship requirement).
- A dependent student whose parents cannot comply because of specified reasons (i.e., parents are deceased, are physically or mentally incapacitated, or the student does not know where the parents reside).
If a student is selected for verification, the financial aid administrator will contact the student regarding the documentation required. Students will have up to 30 days to provide the documentation. If a student fails to provide the required documentation within the thirty-day timeframe, an exception may be granted from the financial aid department.
If the student fails to complete the verification process, the file will remain incomplete and federal aid will not be awarded.
If the student’s eligibility for aid has changed due to the verification process, the aid will be recalculated.
If the student fails to submit the verification information, any federal grants will be returned to the Department of Education.
Processing Time Period
Students are notified that until the missing items are submitted to the Financial Aid Office, additional processing of their file is not possible.
Data Elements and Documentation Needed to Satisfy the Verification Requirements
Once a student is chosen for verification, he or she will receive a request to submit additional information and/or materials. Federal regulations have customized the verification process. Therefore, not all students selected for verification will be required to verify the same data. The Financial Aid Office will notify the student which data must be verified and what information or materials will be required to verify that particular data. Some of the requested materials may include, but are not limited to a verification form, an official federal tax return transcript from the IRS, W-2 wage statement(s), a written statement declaring any untaxed income received, proof of high school completion status and verification of identity and a statement of educational purpose.
Tax data can be provided by utilizing the IRS data retrieval option on the FAFSA, or by obtaining it directly from the IRS and submitting an official federal income tax return transcript and his or her (and spouse if married) W-2 wage statement. Waivers granted by the United States Department of Education will be honored when appropriate. Please note that if the student is a dependent he or she will be asked to supply parental information on the verification form and will need to obtain a parent signature on the verification certification. A dependent student also will be required to supply an official federal income tax return transcript for his or her parent(s) and W-2 wage statement. If any part of the verification documentation is not fully completed or if any discrepancies exist, the student may be asked to supply additional information or explanation.
Household size is verified by comparing the Verification Worksheet to federal data. Discrepancies must be corrected before further processing. Household size does not need to be verified if family size is:
- For independent, single students
- For independent, married students
Number in Postsecondary Institutions
Number of family members enrolled at least half-time in postsecondary institutions is verified by comparing the Verification Worksheet to federal data. Discrepancies must be corrected before further processing. If the student is the only family member enrolled at least half-time in postsecondary institutions, number in college does not need to be verified.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
If a student or spouse (if applicable) indicated receipt of SNAP, the student must provide this information as part of the signed Verification worksheet. The Financial Aid Administrator may also request documentation from the benefits agency or other documentation to resolve any conflicting information or address any concerns regarding the accuracy of student submitted information.
If a student or spouse (if applicable) indicated receipt of child support, the student must provide this information as part of the signed Verification worksheet. This includes the amount paid, name of child(ren) supported, source of support, and to whom it was paid. The Financial Aid Office may also request documentation such as a copy of a separation agreement or divorce decree or copies of checks or money order receipts to resolve any conflicting information or address any concerns regarding the accuracy of student submitted information.
Document Collection Procedures
Required documentation items are identified and a copy of the request is kept in the file. When documents arrive, an electronic time and date stamp or receipt date is associated with the document. When all required documents are received, the student is considered complete and ready to be packaged. The files are prepared for verification and packaging.
Failure to Comply
Students who fail to submit verification documents never become complete; therefore, aid is not awarded for these students.
If any of the persons required to report information on the FAFSA will but hadn’t yet filed a tax return at the time of application, he or she would have used an estimated AGI (adjusted gross income) on the FAFSA. At the time of verification, the necessary tax returns should have been filed and must be used for verification. If a return hasn’t been filed by then and a filing extension was granted by the IRS, the school shall accept as alternative documentation copies of the W-2 forms, and as proof that the IRS has granted a filing extension either a copy of IRS Form 4868- Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax
Return (automatically grants the taxpayer a six-month extension beyond the April 15 deadline), or a copy of the IRS approval of an extension beyond the automatic six-month extension.
In addition to supplying the above documentation, the student must submit the tax return documents to the financial aid office, once completed. When the financial aid office receives the completed tax documents, we will use them to re-verify the required data.
Notification to Students
Once the verification process is complete, students will be notified of their award eligibility via email to return to the student financial aid portal to receive an updated award letter.
If it is determined a correction(s) needs to be made the financial aid department coordinates with the school’s third-party servicer to make the correction(s). Upon completion of the verification process, if the student feels an error has been made, he or she may contact the financial aid administrator to request the file be reviewed again. If the student provided incorrect information, the student would need to submit in writing the correction and request that the file be reviewed again. If it is determined that a student must be referred to the Office of Inspector General the school’s President will make such a referral.
When verifying a student’s record, there are two instances when discrepant information does not have to be corrected.
- When the absolute value of the discrepancies does not exceed $25.
- When the EFC does not change after recalculation.