IRS outage could create chaos for students applying for financial aid

The FAFSA just got much more difficult for some

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - A potentially chaotic situation looms for college students who rely on financial aid.

The Trump Administration has removed a key IRS tool that made the infamously-difficult application process a little easier.

“People are calling saying, what do I do now?” says Dr. Pat Watkins, the Director of Financial Aid at Eckerd College in Pinellas County.

The panic is attributed to the fact that the IRS’s “data retrieval tool” is done.

Dr. Watkins says the “DRT” is like a magic button.

“Push a button and all the data would magically appear on their FAFSA in the correct places,” explains Dr. Watkins.

Without it, students have have to dig up old tax filings, or request a hard copy directly from the IRS.

“At this time of the year, with everyone filing their taxes, that could delay the process,” adds Watkins.

Even a short delay could put some students finances in limbo, possibly preventing some students from getting the money they need to stay in school.

It’s a problem that will affect high school seniors, most college students, and even graduate students, since most students rely on financial aid to pay for college.

The “DRT” apparently crashed about 7 weeks ago, but the IRS now says the tool is “temporarily suspended” because of the ability for the tool to be misused by identify thieves. There’s no timeline yet for when a better, safer version will be available to the public.

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