Two-Factor Authentication comes to Federal Student Aid

Did you know that more than ninety-thousand people have access to Post-Secondary School Federal Financial Aid network services? Yup. They do. This number encompasses all FSA users including personnel at schools, guarantee agencies, lenders, third-party servicers, call centers and everyone else at the Department of Education, their partners and their subcontractors. Together they service over thirteen million students and over thirty-million aid awards. And while aid administrators are generally a trustworthy bunch, FSA isn’t immune to the malicious threats which plague today’s digital world. The solution? Two-Factor Authentication.

What is Two-Factor Authentication? It’s simple, really. In order to access FSA websites like FAA Access to CPS, COD and NSLDS, users will have to use two passwords.

The first of the two “factors” is your FSA User ID and Password.

The second,  will be a one-time password generated by a token like the one depicted below. A new unique password will be generated each time a user attempts to gain access to one of the FSA system websites. Only “privileged users” of FSA network services will receive a TFA token. Just who is a privileged user anyway? Well if you are one of the more than ninety-thousand people working in Federal Student Aid, you are.

FSA - TFA Token

Last month Ed, began the phased distribution of tokens and token information to schools. While they planned an elaborate state by state deployment, Ed hasn’t been sticking to their stated schedule so it’s anyone’s guess as to when you’ll get yours. My bet, it’ll be happening sooner than you might expect.  Primary Destination Point Administrators and COD Security Administrators in group 4 and 5 on the chart below, have already begun receiving instructions from ED.

Token Deployment Schedule

Want to know more about Two-Factor Authentication? Check out the presentation from the 2011 FSA conference here: Two-Factor Authentication: Session #56



2012-2013 Student Aid Eligibility Worksheet for Question 23

On January 17th, the 2012-2013 Student Aid Eligibility Worksheet for Question 23 also known as the Drug conviction worksheet was published for the 2012-2013 award year in English and Spanish. Students who answer either “Yes” to question 23 of the 2012-2013 FAFSA which asks if the student has ever been convicted for possessing or selling illegal drugs while receiving Federal Student Aid should complete the worksheet to determine if the conviction will affect their eligibility for aid.

Students who meet the following criteria are generally eligible for aid:

  • Students who never received Federal Student Aid (Federal Student Grants, Federal Student Loans, Federal Work-Study)
  • Students who have never been to college
  • Convictions that occurred before they turned age 18
  • Convictions that were removed from their record
  • Convictions other than Federal or State convictions,
  • If the offense occurred during a period on non-enrollment during which the student did not receive aid.

A copy of the worksheet is available here:



2012 Omnibus hits students hard

High school students

Image via Wikipedia

Congress reached agreement on the fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget last week after several days of disagreement and stalemate. Bills in the budget maintain maximum Pell Grant awards at $5,550 for the 2012-13 award year however there were some provisions that weren’t so great, especially for students.

Schools were surprised to see the elimination of Ability-to-benefit (ATB) options for establishing student eligibility for Title IV funds for students who first enroll on or after July 1, 2012. Under the new rules, neither ATB testing or earning six credits applicable to a degree or certificate will satisfy the academic qualifications for receiving Title IV funds. To be eligible for Title IV, students are required to have a high-school diploma or GED, or have been home schooled. While few schools would argue against the value of a high-school diploma or even a GED, proponents of Ability to Benefit Testing felt that by eliminating access to aid, more students would forgo vital services such as occupational certificate programs offered at community colleges and career focused programs offered by the proprietary sector. While schools that enroll a large percentage of students under the existing policy will have to find ways to continue to help this high need population of students access the educational programs of their choice or face a reduction in enrollment, High Schools as well as GED programs around the country are going to work harder than ever to increase Diploma and GED attainment rates or risk condemning many students to a life at the bottoms of society.

It’s not just the extremely poor that the new regulations penalize the most, but also the moderately poor. Qualifying income for the Automatic Zero EFC determination is reduced to $23,000, beginning with award year 2012-13. The law currently sets that threshold at $30,000, but directs the Department of Education to adjust it annually based on the Consumer Price Index. Auto zero applies only to EFC calculations for dependent students based on parent income) and independent students with dependents other than a spouse (based on the combined income of the student and spouse. Students can expect to see about 1000.00 less in aid on average.
They stuck it to the consumer again by eliminating the interest subsidy during the six-month grace period for new Direct Loans made on or after July 1, 2012, and before July 1, 2014. Students can expect to pay slightly more as the interest accrues on their student loans for an extra six months as interest that accrues during those six months will be payable by the student rather than be subsidized by the federal government.