Last month the U.S. Department of Education announced temporary changes to the verification requirements for the 2021-2022 award year. These much welcome changes allow schools to waive verification requirements for students selected for V1 verification and focus verification on identity and fraud. Although students in V4 and V5 verification groups must still provide proof of High School completion, confirm their identity, and sign the Departments Statement of Educational Purpose, the income verification required under V5 is also being waived.

The announcement gives schools flexibility to choose their own verification policies and make their own determination as to how to implement these changes, but FSA reminded schools to review subsequent ISIR transactions and to be sure to resolve any conflicting information. This waiver may apply no matter where institutions are in the verification process, e.g., if documents have been collected or requested, but verification has not been completed, or if an institution has not started the verification process. However, this does not exempt institutions from reviewing all documents for conflicting information concerning a student’s eligibility.

FSA also reminded schools that the in-person submission and notary requirements have been removed temporarily due to the pandemic. To complete verification for Identity and Statement of Educational Purpose, institutions can accept:

  • copies of the required verification documents electronically. This may occur by uploading a photo of the documents (including from a smartphone), PDF, or other similar electronic document through a secure portal at the institution, by email, etc.
  • an electronic signature using a stylus or finger to sign the statement, or an image of the individual’s signature affixed to the statement in lieu of obtaining a wet signature.

The Department hinted that additional adjustments to the verification process may be made in the future to ensure the verification process is “robust and equitable”. That’s something o look forward to.