FAFSA Has Been Fixed for Most Mixed-Status Families

UPDATED MAY 2024 —

The Department of Education has announced that the FAFSA should now work for parents without Social Security numbers. Some students will still experience bugs, but Federal Student Aid stated that the form should work for most families.

May 2024 NOTE: There have been important updates to this article. Please read our article, The FAFSA is (Finally) Open for Undocumented Parents, to get the latest information on this topic. We are keeping this article on the website for counselors and families who may need to refer to Federal Student Aid’s prior workaround strategies and the history of this FAFSA mess. 

The FAFSA is (Finally) Open for Undocumented Parents

 

March 2024: FAFSA and Mixed-Status Families

Parents without Social Security numbers have been locked out of the FAFSA by technical difficulties until now. While federal officials have offered workarounds, they hope this latest round of technical fixes will help.

According to Federal Student Aid, or FSA, parents and other contributors “who were previously impacted by this issue may now log in to FAFSA.gov to complete their section of the online FAFSA form, after they are invited to participate in the form by the student. The Department still recommends that the student start the application and then invite the parent to contribute to their form for the best user experience and to avoid any further glitches.”

 

Get the March 2024 FAFSA Tip Sheet

Families and counselors should download the new tip sheet published by Federal Student Aid.

The tip sheet includes:

  • Instructions for students filing for the first time
  • Instructions for students who have started the FAFSA and are continuing to have problems despite the latest fixes
  • Workaround instructions that were published previously, if all else fails
  • Frequently asked questions for mixed-status families

 

Download Federal Student Aid’s Instructions and Tips:
How to Submit the 2024-25 FAFSA Form if Your Contributor Doesn’t Have a Social Security Number (SSN)

 

FAFSA Problems Remain

Federal Student Aid’s announcement noted that there are a number of issues with the FAFSA that still need to be fixed.

  • Parents without Social Security numbers will have to manually enter their financial information, even if they have Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers, or ITIN.
  • Some students are seeing an error message when inviting parents without a Social Security number to participate in their form. This occurs when the personal information entered on the invitation does not match the parent’s FSA ID account. “Right now, we are advising impacted families to wait to invite any contributors without an SSN to their form.”

 

Families and counselors should read the full announcement to get all the details. Sign up to receive updates at FAFSAContributorUpdates@ed.gov.

Read Federal Student Aid’s Announcement:
(GENERAL-24-19) Update on Technical Fix to the 2024-25 FAFSA Form for Individuals Without a Social Security Number (SSN)

 

Mixed-Status Family Fix: What’s Happening Now

We asked our readers to let us know how it’s going. Our friend Corinne Kentor at the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration offered this helpful report.

  • Students who have parents without Social Security numbers can now submit their FAFSA, provided all parties have successfully set up an FSA ID.
  • Parents without Social Security numbers are still having problems with the TransUnion match process when trying to create an FSA ID. (FSA says they should be receiving automated case numbers that allow them to proceed with manual identity verification and hopes to work through the backlog of cases quickly. They are committing to a seven-day turnaround for new cases that need manual verification.)

 

Kentor notes there are still ongoing problems for students in the following situations:

  • Cases where students/contributors tried multiple times to set up an FSA ID, leading to duplicative entries
  • Cases where there is a mismatch between the FSA ID and the FAFSA, such as the applicant’s address including “Drive” for their FSA ID, but entered as “Dr.” when completing the FAFSA.

 

Matching Personal Information is Challenging

FSA noted in its announcement that matching personal information is still a problem that still needs to be fixed.

Our readers also noted that matching personal information exactly can be tough. There are relatively simple mailing address issues (Drive v Dr) as noted above. But matching legal names exactly remains a huge challenge.

One reader said, “I brought one of my current students in today for a test drive, and she experienced the error message” telling her that mom’s personal information wasn’t a match. “In this particular case, her mom has several variations of her last name, not at all uncommon in LatinX families. So that’s our theory.”

In cases like these, the family should try to remember what that original FSA ID looked like. Check the information in the original FSA confirmation email, if one was sent to the parent. Going forward, it’s important that any family member getting an FSA ID write down exactly what they submitted.