DRT Gone for 2017-18 FAFSA, Officials Tell Congress

May 3, 2017

By Allie Ciaramella, Communications Manager 

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool will be unavailable for the remainder of the 2017-18 FAFSA cycle, federal officials testified today at a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on the DRT data breach and resulting outage. However, the tool will be restored by Oct. 1 for the opening of the 2018-19 FAFSA cycle, and is on schedule to return in late-May for student loan borrowers who use the tool on income-driven repayment applications.

NCAN anticipates that approximately 10 million FAFSAs have yet to be filed this year, primarily by lower-income students who typically file later and renewing college students, community college students, and post-traditional students (older, attending part-time, etc.) who file closer to the start of classes. As the DRT remains unavailable, professionals supporting students in FAFSA completion should continue to use alternative forms of verification allowed in light of the outage.

James Runcie, chief operating officer of the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid, also guaranteed to lawmakers today that the DRT that returns to the FAFSA for the 2018-19 cycle will not be open to the same misuse that IRS officials say resulted in the issuing of nearly 8,000 fraudulent tax refunds. A new “encryption solution” should protect individuals’ information moving forward, Runcie said in prepared testimony, and students will not be able to see their data at any point in the transfer process.

Department officials saw a 7-percent drop in the number of students selected for verification this year under the DRT, Runcie added, but 25-30 percent of students were still flagged. About half of the 20 million FAFSA filers annually use the DRT.

NCAN submitted written testimony for the hearing, which committee members entered into the record this morning.

“This is an emergency, not a mere inconvenience,” the testimony says. “We applaud the Committee for its attention to this urgent matter. We hope for a quick restoration of the tool in a way that strikes the delicate balance of data security and usability for the students and families seeking assistance in financing college. NCAN and its members stand at the ready to help design that solution and test it with users of the tool.”

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