Late last week, the IRS and the Department of Education announced that the data retrieval tool (DRT) on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) would be unavailable for the foreseeable future, citing security concerns.

The DRT allows students to easily import tax information to their federal financial aid application form. With that option no longer available, students and their families are understandably concerned. However, the National College Access Network (NCAN) has already posted a list of what to do to help students who still need to fill out their FAFSA. Some important details to note:

  1. The FAFSA form is still available to submit electronically; tax information must be entered into the electronic form manually.
  2. Students should NOT wait to fill out the FAFSA, as no end date for the DRT outage has been specified.
  3. Students and their families will need 2015 tax returns, not 2016, to fill out the information.
  4. An increase in applications requiring verification is expected without the DRT tool, so students should consider ordering tax transcripts for 2015 directly from the IRS after submitting their FAFSA.

Hopefully, with earlier FAFSA availability this year, many families will have avoided this inconvenience and confusion, but students who are struggling should be sure to reach out to their guidance counselors or the financial aid office at the schools they’re applying to for more support.