Must-See TV: FAFSA’s Fix for Mixed-Status Families

UPDATED May 2024 — 

Federal Student Aid announced that the FAFSA was finally working for most mixed-status families. And we are hearing from our readers that, for the most part, this is indeed true!

Counselors helping students with undocumented parents and other parents who don’t have Social Security numbers report that the FAFSA fix is working as long as families carefully follow the tips released by Federal Student Aid.

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 still recommend watching the video below for useful tips on navigating the FAFSA if you are a member of a mixed-status family.

The FAFSA is (Finally) Open for Undocumented Parents

 

Advice from Federal Student Aid and Experts

There is so much to know. We urge you to watch an informative webinar by our friends at the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration and their partners.

The one-hour presentation offers insight from a top official in charge of the FAFSA rollout: Melanie Muenzer, Chief of Staff for James Kvaal, Under Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education. Kvaal’s effort to get the FAFSA working in this chaotic season was recently featured in The New York Times.

The webinar also features tips and scenarios from MorraLee Keller, National College Attainment Network’s FAFSA expert; an assessment of the impact of the FAFSA’s rocky rollout on some 500,000 students in high school and college across the country; and advice for families, counselors, and colleges by Astou Thiane, director of policy and advocacy for ImmSchools.

Be sure to stay online for the full show. There is a substantial question-and-answer session at the end.

Watch: Better FAFSA for Mixed-Status Families: Updates from the Department of Education

Get more information and a video link below.

Video Highlights: FAFSA Fix Update

FSA’s Melanie Muenzer offered a report on a number of issues vexing students and families. Some highlights:

There’s More Call Desk Help: The Federal Student Aid call center has increased the number of staff to reduce call times and increase success in contacting FSA. Of note, FSA has increased the number of Spanish-speaking staff. Staff have also received additional training.

FAFSAs Are Now Being Processed: Colleges are beginning to receive FAFSA information. Students will get emails informing them that their FAFSA has been successfully processed or needs to be corrected. Watch your email box and log in to your Federal Student Aid dashboard.

 

Video Highlights: FSA ID Update

Getting FSA IDs Should Be (Somewhat) Easier: Ideally, parents without Social Security numbers can verify their identity as they apply for their FSA ID by answering four background questions provided by the credit reporting agency TransUnion.

If this doesn’t work, Federal Student Aid should automatically send a message with instructions for the next steps to the email address that the parent provided. This should hopefully avert the need to call the overloaded FSA hotline. The emailed instructions will include a case number for the parent and will ask the parent to provide identification and sign an attestation form.

The parents will need to complete these steps and email the materials back to FSA, being sure to include their case number. The identification provided needs to be valid. The identification cannot be expired. And the images need to be clear and easy to read. FSA has pledged to process identity verifications within seven days of receiving the parent’s email.

Clearing the Backlog of FSA ID Applications: Our readers report that undocumented parents they know are still waiting to have their FSA ID applications reviewed and approved.

Need help? These days it may be easier to get through to the FSA Help Desk. Parents should ask for a “Tier II” operator. This is the group that handles FSA IDs. Hopefully, this person will be able to check on the status of the parent’s FSA ID application – and move it along more rapidly. In the webinar, FSA officials noted that there are more Spanish-speaking operators on the FSA ID Help Desk.

Video Highlights: Top Tips

Federal Student Aid’s instructions are a must-read for parents without Social Security numbers who are still struggling to fill out the FAFSA. Here are two important strategies for families:

1. Both the student and the parent (or parents) should have FSA IDs before attempting to fill out the FAFSA. FSA IDs should always come first.

2. If a student tried multiple times to send the parent an invite in the past, the FAFSA back-end is probably frozen, not knowing which invite is the right one to use. Here’s the fix:

  • Students should delete their FAFSA.
  • The parent should get their FSA ID and do their part of the FAFSA. (Yes, parents can take the lead in this case.)
  • This parent should invite the student to join the parent’s FAFSA.
  • The student should be able to successfully link with the parent and fill out the FAFSA using this workaround.
  • Watch for the FAFSA’s thrilling “Congratulations!”

 

Video Link and Resources

The webinar was hosted by the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. Stars of the show include:

Roxanne Garza: Office of Postsecondary Education, Department of Education
Melanie Muenzer: Office of the Undersecretary, Department of Education
Astou Thiane: ImmSchools
MorraLee Keller: National College Attainment Network
Ignacia Rodriguez Kmec: National Immigration Law Center
Corinne Kentor: Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration

Download the slides and resources from this webinar.