Is an Incarcerated Student, Spouse, Or Parent Required To Complete Verification and Submit Documents?

Award Year: 2023-24 KA-35309 Helpfulness Rating 1,971 page views

This guidance is specific to the 2023-24 award year and later.

Yes, but... For the 2023-24 award year, according to Dear Colleague Letter GEN-22-09, a confined or incarcerated student will only be required to verify their identity and Statement of Educational Purpose. This means confined or incarcerated students who are selected for:

This means the student's spouse or parents are not required to complete verification because only the incarcerated student needs to verify identity and Statement of Educational Purpose.

See AskRegs Knowledgebase Q&A, How Do We Verify Identity and Statement Of Educational Purpose For Incarcerated Students? 

Under Section 484(t)(1)(A) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA), as amended, [20 USC 1091(t)], a confined or incarcerated individual is defined as an individual who is serving a criminal sentence in a federal, state, or local penitentiary, prison, jail, reformatory, work farm, juvenile justice facility, or other similar correctional institution. An individual is not considered incarcerated if that individual is in a half-way house or home detention, or is sentenced to serve only weekends.

These students will be identified using an incarcerated student flag on the Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR). This flag will be assigned in one of three ways:

  1. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) will compare the student’s address on the FAFSA to its Correctional Facility database and set the flag;
  2. The student files the Incarcerated Applicant Form (IAF, or Incarcerated FAFSA), which contains a different P.O. Box and zip code, which will set a Special Handle Indicator on the ISIR; or
  3. The financial aid administrator files the FAFSA on the student's behalf and sets the Incarcerated Applicant Flag upon determining the student is incarcerated.

Student Is Not Incarcerated, But Parent Is: The verification regulations and U.S. Department of Education (ED) guidance do not exempt an incarcerated parent from the requirement to complete verification. Depending on dependency status, an incarcerated student's spouse or parents, must be included on the FAFSA and must complete verification as any other spouse or parent does, including but not limited to required signed statements, signatures, tax documents, and verification of nonfiling letters.

Conflicting Information: Under the administrative capability regulations at 34 CFR 668.16(f), any conflicting information in the student's file still must be resolved. The requirement to resolve conflicting information supersedes verification requirements and the verification waiver.

Professional Judgment: The financial aid administrator could choose to exercise professional judgment (PJ) if he or she believes there are exceptional circumstances under which an incarcerated individual's spouse or parental income and assets should not be included in the calculation of the expected family contribution (EFC). As with all PJ decisions, the reasons for the PJ adjustment must be thoroughly documented in the student's file.

While generally under 34 CFR 668.53(c), you are required to complete verification before making PJ adjustments, you are not required to verify information that you will entirely remove using PJ. Reference the Application and Verification Guide (AVG) volume of the FSA Handbook.

See also GEN-23-05 and ED's Prison Education Program Questions and Answers website.

Student Aid Reference Desk: For additional information, try the Student Aid Reference Desk. It is a central hub of all the important financial aid resources you need with direct links to legislation, regulation, Dear Colleague Letters, and other ED and NASFAA references. It is updated on a rolling basis with the latest news and changes. Search Verification.

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