Southwestern Law School must verify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) applications selected by the Department of Education (DOE) of students who will receive or have received Federal Student Aid (FSA) funds. Every student selected for verification is required to complete the verification form necessary prior to FSA loan disbursement or qualifying for Federal Work Study (FWS). The deadline for response is listed on each verification form signed by the student.
Selection of Applications to be Verified
Since all Southwestern students requesting federal loans have the option to add FWS, we verify all applicants identified by DOE. In addition, the Financial Aid Office (FAO) may select a student for verification if there is a discrepancy in FAFSA information, or if a condition warrants further investigation.
Listed below are certain circumstances where students do not have to complete verification. The FAO will identify and document in the aid folder why the student is not required to complete verification under one of the following categories of exemption:
- An applicant died during the award year.
- A student does not wish to receive FSA funds, even if a FAFSA is submitted.
- The student was selected for verification AFTER ceasing to be enrolled at Southwestern and all disbursements are complete.
- If not chosen by DOE, and unless the FAO has a reason to believe information is inaccurate, we will not verify the reported FAFSA information of the spouse of an independent student if any of the following apply:
- The spouse has died.
- They are mentally incapacitated.
- They are residing in a country other than the United States and can’t be contacted by normal means.
- They can’t be located because the student does not have and cannot get their contact information.
Conflicting Information for Nonselected Applicants
The FAO is required to resolve any discrepancies discovered in a student's file. The law school reviews information provided by students during the verification process to assess any need to resolve conflicting information and will request clarification from the student, as needed. Students at Southwestern are not often selected for verification due to being independent, professional-level students, so the frequency of cases of conflicting information requiring resolution is low.
Upon receipt of any documentation that a student intends to apply for FSA, an email listing missing items is sent to the student. This email informs the student of any additional information which is required to complete their financial aid file. If the FAO has received DOE information identifying the student as being selected for verification, the email requests the appropriate verification documents (e.g., verification form, student and spouse’s tax transcripts – though we highly encourage all students to use the IRS Data Release Tool to import IRS information).
Documentation submitted to the FAO must be legible, appropriate, and have the student's Southwestern student ID number for identification purposes. If the student submits a document which is not legible (e.g., a tax transcript in which the income numbers are not identifiable), appropriate (e.g., a tax transcript return is requested and the student submits a copy of the return or a W-2), or identifiable, the documents will be returned and a request for additional documentation sent.
If a student submits documentation which appears fraudulent, the FAO staff member must notify the Financial Aid Director, and the Financial Aid Director will refer substantiated cases to the DOE for investigation.
Failure to Comply/Late Submissions
Students who fail to submit verification documents will not receive FSA. If submission is made after any written deadline, it may not be possible for the student to receive FSA. Any submission made after the last day of April in any given year will be considered too late to process.
Verification Tracking Groups
Southwestern verifies only those data elements required by the federal government, adhering to the Verification Tracking Groups (below) set up by the DOE. However, FAO staff members are free to ask for additional information if further investigation is needed to resolve a discrepancy.
Students who are selected for verification are placed in the following groups, and all required data is verified:
V1—Standard Verification Group
Students in this group must verify the following if they are tax filers:
- adjusted gross income
- U.S. income tax paid
- untaxed portions of IRA distributions
- untaxed portions of pensions
- IRA deductions and payments
- tax-exempt interest income
- education credits
- household size
- number in college
Students who are not tax filers must verify the following:
- income earned from work
- household size
- number in college
V4—Custom Verification Group
Students must verify high school completion status and identity/statement of educational purpose (signed in front of a member of the FAO staff member with identification only).
V5—Aggregate Verification Group
Students must verify high school completion status and identity/statement of educational purpose in addition to the items in the Standard Verification Group (signed in front of a member of the FAO staff member with identification only).
Institutional Discretionary Items
The FAO verifies those applicants identified by the DOE. Though rare, the FAO staff member may select a student for verification if there is a discrepancy or a condition which is unusual and warrants investigation. If a student submits verification documentation (e.g., tax transcript), the FAO staff member must verify the information on the document against the information in the student's file.
Notification to Students
Students are notified of the results of verification by email and a new Financial Aid Offer Letter is provided only if changes are made to their FSA.
FAO policies and procedures are designed to eliminate the possibility of a student receiving more financial aid than they are eligible to receive (“overpayment”) from any fund. However, if an overpayment does occur, the student is placed on hold until the overpayments can be corrected. Students are not allowed to register for subsequent terms and academic transcripts are withheld until the account has been cleared.
Updating Requirements and Procedures
There are situations whereby a FAO staff member may update student information on a FAFSA, but Southwestern does not administer need-based aid (other than FWS), so the likelihood of any needed Student Aid Index (SAI) change is highly unlikely.
Because the law school is liable for disbursements made prior to verification, the law school’s FAO policy does not allow disbursements to be made prior to completion of the verification process.