Two Verification Scenarios: What Data Should You Check?

By Mandy Sponholtz, Senior Policy Specialist

Verification is a topic that regularly generates questions to USA Funds Ask PolicySM. The following are two verification scenarios that schools may come across — and the latest federal guidance on how to handle those scenarios.

Scenario 1

Q: A student selected for the V5 verification group also qualified for a simplified needs test. Do I have to verify all items for this student?

A: Yes. There is only one difference between the “regular” Expected Family Contribution and the EFC that the Department calculates using a simplified needs test: When calculating EFC for a student who qualifies for a simplified needs test, the Central Processing System does not include assets.

And because federal policy does not include assets as a required verification item, the verification data items for an EFC calculated using “simplified needs” are the same as for the EFC calculated under the “regular” formula.

For additional information, see VI-Q7 in the Department’s Program Integrity Questions and Answers.

Scenario 2

Q: A student selected for the V5 verification group also qualified for an automatic zero EFC. Do I have to verify all items for this student? 

A: No. VI-Q7 in the Department’s Program Integrity Questions and Answers indicates that schools must verify only certain items for financial aid applicants who qualify for an automatic zero EFC.

The Department’s site indicates that, for dependent applicants, schools must verify only the following information in this scenario:

  • Parents' adjusted gross income, if they were tax filers.
  • Parents’ income earned from work, if they were non-tax filers.
  • The receipt of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP or food stamps) by any household member — if the receipt of these benefits qualified the applicant for auto zero EFC.

And note that, in addition to these items listed on the Department’s site, you must verify these items:

  • High school diploma.
  • Statement of educational purpose/identity.

While high school diploma and statement of identity are required verification items, they do not affect the EFC. The Department has notified USA Funds® that schools still must verify those elements for applicants selected in the V5 tracking group with an auto zero EFC — and that it will update its answer to VI-Q7 online to reflect the additional items.

For independent applicants, the Department’s site indicates that schools must verify only the following information:

  • Applicant's and spouse's AGI, if they were tax filers.
  • Applicant's and spouse's income earned from work, if they were non-tax filers.
  • The number of household members, to determine if the independent applicant has dependents other than a spouse.
  • The receipt of SNAP benefits by any household member — if the receipt of these benefits qualified the applicant for auto zero EFC.

As with dependent applicants, the Department has stated that schools must verify these additional items for independent applicants selected in the V5 tracking group with an auto zero EFC:

  • High school completion status.
  • Statement of educational purpose/identity.

Do you need additional information about these verification scenarios or any other verification issue? Use our online form to contact USA Funds Ask Policy with federal financial aid policy questions, and we’ll respond, generally within a business day.

USA Funds University also offers an online course on verification.