Education Dept. Does Damage Control After Rogue Decimal Point Wreaks Havoc on Aid Applications

An illustration of FAFSA.gov An illustration of FAFSA.gov Education Department

A mistake in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application forms could cost tens of thousands of students their financial aid. 

The Department of Education told The Associated Press that a change in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, resulted in many students incorrectly entering their personal income levels. They estimate up to 200,000 people were wrongly declared eligible and others were incorrectly denied. 

Education officials are trying to identify who was incorrectly selected for the Pell Grants and have since corrected the error on the online form, which stemmed from rogue decimal points. According to the AP, some students entered unnecessary punctuation that the system ignored. Here's the explanation:

For example, an applicant with an Income Earned from Work value of $5,000.19 who, as a result of entering both the dollars and cents would have, instead of the correct value of $5,000, a value of $500,019 used in the calculation of the applicant’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC). 

Many academic institutions reported the glitch, but Education is recommending that many applicants' paperwork be reviewed before subsidized Title IV aid is disbursed for the 2014-2015 award year. "If such aid has already been disbursed, the institution may need to change awards and return (or have the student return) any overawarded funds," the instructions read. 

According to the Education Department, the maximum Federal Pell Grant for the 2014-2015 school year is $5,730, although the amount given depends on personal and family financial need, veteran or disability status, and the cost of attendance.

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