Many schools we work with note concerns about how difficult it can be to identify conflicting information—they also express concerns about repeat audit findings. Complicating matters further, this year, for the first time ever, students will have two FAFSAs on file that reference the same 2015 tax information. Though the Department of Education has provided some guidance that they will flag student records that need to be reviewed, we have yet to see how this will work.
One of the biggest challenges you may run into with early FAFSA and PPY is keeping up with identifying cross-year conflicting information. CampusLogic just released an ISIR Comparison Tool in StudentForms, and this tool can drastically improve an institution’s ability to manage this situation.
Conflicting Information Is Going To Happen
Disparate systems, a multitude of documents that each can have many, many revisions… opportunities for conflicting information to infiltrate the Financial Aid process abound. When one looks at all of the documentation collected in the admissions, financial aid, and registrar’s offices, along with the academic documentation, it would almost be impossible to think that students always give accurate, consistent responses to administrators.
This is not to say students are trying to provide inaccurate information. Instead it is a testament to how busy students are, the amount of stress they are under, the fact that information comes from many sources of truth, and the fact that updating information is not always easy. Let’s be honest, mistakes do happen.
Correcting Errors: Whose Job Is It?
What responsibility exists across higher education departments to review and correct errors in university systems? According to the Department of Education, the responsibility on Financial Aid departments is clear: “In addition to reviewing application and data match information from the CPS, a school must have an adequate internal system to identify conflicting information—regardless of the source and regardless of whether the student is selected for verification—that would affect a student’s eligibility, such as information from the admissions office as to whether the student has a high school diploma or information from other offices regarding academic progress and enrollment status. The school must resolve all such conflicting information, except when the student dies during the award year.” (AVG-123)
Conflicting Information: Down The Rabbit Hole
Conflicting information feels like one of those dirty little secrets in financial aid. It is one of those areas of grey that we live in daily. Determining what is conflicting information can lead one down a deep and dark rabbit hole—a hole that can cause a significant barrier to students and results in undue administrative burden.
However, if you don’t dig deep enough auditors and program review teams can report findings and identify institutions as administratively incapable. Most often, conflicting information is reported out as one of two findings under ‘verification’ or ‘administrative capability.’ Being a grey area, the impact of conflicting information can grow and shrink based on reviewer and perspective
As reported at the Federal Student Aid Conference in 2015, verifications were the number 1 program review finding and number 5 audit finding across all institution. Schools have reported that more and more often review teams are looking across multiple aid years for conflicting information. In particular, these trends tend to center around marital status, dependency questions, tax filing status, and parent marital status.
SIS Support of Cross-Year Aid Conflicting Info Is Limited
The greatest challenge present with cross aid year conflicts is that none of the current Student Information Systems (SIS) give schools visibility into these situations out-of-the-box. Instead, it is more often through complex and inaccurate reporting—or by chance—that a school begins to identify files that need to be reviewed. Even if reporting is in place via an SIS, it likely has limitations. Does it simply flag the student? How many Aid Years or ISIRs can you compare at once, two?
Meet the ISIR Comparison Tool
How great would it be if multiple ISIRs for the same student could be pulled up side-by-side and an audit performed, automatically resulting in a comparison screen displaying comprehensive results outlining any discrepant or conflicting information? StudentForms powered by CampusLogic does exactly that.
The ISIR Comparison Tool finds changes and potentially conflicting information between ISIR transactions or across aid years. The tool also allows users to show all fields in the comparison, or show only those fields with discrepancies (see images below). Current customers can check out the July 9, 2016 release notes to find the tool’s “How To Guide.”
Use of our comprehensive ISIR Comparison Tool allows schools to take the guess work out of identifying conflicts across aid applications and ensure that files can be processed quickly, easily, and accurately allowing for the best possible student experience with the aid office.
Find more PPY & early FAFSA resources in our PPY Survival Kit >