FAFSA Changes: Corrections, Updates and Adjustments

Filing the FAFSA, 2015-2016 Edition (Cover)
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There are three types of changes that may be made to data elements on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA):

  • Corrections are changes to information that was incorrect as of the date the FAFSA was filed. The new information should be correct as of the FAFSA filing date.
  • Updates are changes to information that was correct as of the date the FAFSA was filed, but which have changed since the FAFSA filing date. Most updates may occur only if the FAFSA is selected for verification.
  • Adjustments are changes to information that was correct as of the date the FAFSA was filed, but which are intended to accommodate special circumstances. Adjustments are made at the discretion of the college financial aid administrator.

The following examples help illustrate the differences between each type of change.

Examples of Corrections

These are examples of some of the more common types of corrections.

  • Discrepancy between the income and tax data initially reported on the FAFSA and the actual information reported on federal income tax returns.
  • Transposed digits in a dollar amount or Social Security number. Note that an incorrect Social Security number may require filing a new FAFSA instead of correcting the error on the existing FAFSA. Consult with the college’s financial aid administrator for instructions.
  • Errors in the applicant’s date of birth.

In addition, some changes are often referred to as corrections, but really are updates.

  • Adding or removing colleges from the FAFSA.
  • Change of the applicant’s address or contact information.

Examples of Updates

Not every change since the FAFSA was filed is allowed as an update. These are examples of permitted updates.

  • Change in the applicant’s dependency status, for reasons other than a change in the applicant’s marital status (e.g., applicant’s parents both died, applicant enlists in the military, applicant now has a dependent other than a spouse, etc.).
  • Change in the applicant’s household size.
  • Change in the applicant’s number in college.
  • Change in the applicant’s marital status, subject to the college’s discretion. If approved, this may require changes in household size and number in college, in addition to the inclusion of the spouse’s income, assets and taxes paid.

Examples of Adjustments

These are examples of changes due to adjustments, which are subject to the discretion of the college financial aid administrator after a case-by-case review when supported by documentation of special circumstances.

  • Special circumstances related to income and cash flow
    • Recent unemployment of a family member or an independent student
    • A student or family member becoming a dislocated worker
    • Death, disability or serious illness of a wage earner
    • Incarceration or institutionalization of a household wage earner
    • Mental or physical incapacitation of a household wage earner
    • Loss or reduction in parent or student income, including when a student quits a job to go to school full-time
    • Exclusion from income of the conversion of a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA
    • Exclusion of employer reimbursement of moving expenses that were included in income
    • Exclusion of hardship distributions from retirement plans, especially if used to pay for higher education expenses
    • Addressing volatile income (e.g., taxi drivers, realtors, waiters and restaurant owners) by substituting an average of the last three years of income for those whose income may vary from year to year
    • Exclusion of unusual capital gains, an atypical one-time bonus and worker’s compensation buyouts
    • Exclusion of other one-time events from parent or student income (but not assets)
    • Other changes in family income, assets or a student’s status that impact the family’s cash flow
  • Changes in child support and other benefits
    • Reductions in child support
    • The end of child support when the child reaches the age of majority
    • Catch-up payments of child support owed from previous years
    • A reduction in Social Security or other federal, state or local means-tested benefits
  • Unusual expenses
    • Medical, dental or nursing home expenses not covered by insurance
    • Unusually high child care or dependent care including elder care costs
    • Dependent-care costs associated with a special-needs child or an elderly parent, grandparent or other relative
    • Elementary or secondary school tuition
  • Number in college
    • Parent(s) enrolled on at least a half-time basis in a degree or certificate program at a school eligible for Title IV federal student aid
  • Other unusual events
    • A change in housing status that results in an individual being homeless
    • Natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, floods and landslides
    • Loss or damage to the principal place of residence
    • U.S. Armed Forces activation of a parent or student