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House, Senate Education Committees Request Education Department Take Steps to Assist Students While Student Aid Tool Is Unavailable
Letter emphasizes importance of protecting taxpayer and student privacy, expresses concern for students and families unable to use IRS tool for weeks

Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Bobby Scott (D-VA), chair and ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, respectively; Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), the chair and ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, respectively; and 39 additional members of the Senate and House Education committees sent a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today asking the department to take action to help alleviate complications for students impacted by the current outage of the Internal Revenue Service’s Data Retrieval Tool (DRT).
 
“On March 9, 2017, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a joint press release announcing the temporary suspension of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) due to privacy concerns. Protecting taxpayer and student privacy is vitally important, and we are concerned about any potential attempts to misuse sensitive information. However, we also are concerned about the students and families who will not be able to use the tool for weeks,” said the Members of Congress in the letter.
 
“Millions of students and families use this important tool when filling out their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and borrowers utilize the DRT when certifying or recertifying their incomes for income-driven repayment (IDR) plans. In both cases, the DRT allows for the more efficient and accurate transfer of federal tax return information electronically, which in turn enables students, families, and borrowers to complete these processes more easily. While individuals can complete FAFSA and IDR applications through alternatives to the DRT, the current outage will lead to additional burden for individuals filling out their FAFSA or IDR applications. The absence of the DRT could also delay students’ federal, state, and institutional financial aid and loan repayment assistance.”
 
The House and Senate leaders also requested that the department take several specific steps to help make students, families, borrowers, student loan servicers, and institutions of higher education aware of the outage and advise them on navigating the process while the DRT is unavailable.
 
The IRS’ DRT tool allows students to access their tax information from the IRS and directly input it into the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Reps. Foxx and Scott and Sens. Alexander and Murray have also requested a briefing from the Department of Education on the steps the department is taking to remedy the situation for students, borrowers, and parents, as well as what the department is doing to protect students’ data privacy and security.

The full letter is available here.

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