Although most applicants for Federal Financial Aid complete the FAFSA® electronically using either FAFSA® on the Web or the myFAFSA mobile app, students still have the option of completing a paper FAFSA®. The Paper FAFSA and in some cases Student Aid Report (SAR) are simply signed the old-fashioned way, using a device called a pen (Sorry, couldn’t resist). Then, signed signature pages are mailed to FSA for processing.
Recently, Federal Student Aid published an Electronic Announcement about the general rules and requirements financial aid administrators should follow when assessing the validity of student and parent signatures on fafsa.gov paper signature pages.
According to their announcement, when FSA receives a paper signature page via U.S. mail, the signature page is evaluated to determine if signatures are valid before they are designated as received in the system. Signature pages are rejected if they do not contain applicant or parent signatures OR if the signatures on the page do not meet specific rules and guidelines. For example, the student signature should match the student name printed on the signature page. The parent signature should be from one of the individuals whose information was provided in parental FAFSA® data fields. Signature pages must also contain an original signature (no photocopies of signatures are acceptable).
FSA says, there are a few common reasons paper signature pages can be rejected.
- Last name or first name only, unless student or parent has indicated he/she has only one name (i.e., signature page only shows one name for student or parent and there is a notation on the form by student or parent that indicates they only have one name);
- Initials only (i.e., “JHS”);
- Typed or stamped name;
- Photocopied signature;
- The words “father,” “mother,” or “dead” instead of signature;
- Comments like “none” or “not applicable”; and
- Signature of a legal guardian.
So, what constitutes a valid signature on the signature page? FSA says a valid signature requires a minimum of a title, first name or initial, and a last name. Acceptable signature examples for an applicant or parent named “June H. Brown” include Mrs. Brown, June Brown, J.H. Brown, J. Brown, or J.H.A. Brown. The only exception is when the student or parent only has a first name or last name and indicates this in writing on the signature page. Additional acceptable and valid signature types include the following:
- An X, thumbprint, fingerprint, or mark will be construed as a legal signature if noted as such on the document, as long as it is also noted and supported by one witness.
- Printed (non-cursive) signatures are accepted.
- Signatures that run together with no spaces (i.e., “JaneSueDoe”) are accepted.
- Signature accompanied by a power of attorney document is acceptable, provided power of attorney is not limited. If power of attorney is questionable, the signature page is referred to Federal Student Aid for further evaluation.
- A signature from an FAA or a high school counselor is an acceptable substitute for a parental signature if due to one or more of the following:
- Parent(s) is not currently in the U.S., and unable to be contacted by normal means of communication.
- The whereabouts of the parent(s) is unknown.
- Parent(s) is mentally or physically unable to sign.
Note: A parenthetical or attached note indicating why the FAA or counselor has signed on behalf of the parent is required for this to be considered a valid signature.
Do not include any other documentation with the mailed signature page unless noted above.
FSA offered two additional pieces of information to the financial aid community. First, for the 2019-2020 school year, signature pages should be mailed to:
Federal Student Aid Programs
P.O. Box 7656
London, KY 40742-7656
And finally, if the FAFSA® form is rejected due to missing signatures, the applicant can contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) to request a copy of the Student Aid Report (SAR), which can be signed, as needed, and mailed back to process the required signatures.