Provided by Congresswoman Barbara Comstock’s Office
Today, all members of the bipartisan Virginia congressional delegation called for Virginia education officials to encourage flexibility in financial aid deadlines due to the removal of an online tool commonly used to upload income information from tax returns. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) is an important resource that allows students and families to automatically import their tax information onto the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and it is typically used by half of federal financial aid applicants. However, the tool was taken offline recently due to concerns about data security and potential identity theft.
In their letter to Virginia Secretary of Education Dietra Trent, the lawmakers noted that the IRS online tool is expected to be unavailable to applicants for scholarships, grants and loans until this Fall, resulting in potential delays and backlogs for students and their families.
The letter was signed by the entire Virginia congressional delegation: U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), and U.S. Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-6), Bobby Scott (D-3), Rob Wittman (R-1), Gerald E. Connolly (D-11), Morgan Griffith (R-9), Dave Brat (R-7), Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-8), Barbara Comstock (R-10), Thomas A. Garrett, Jr. (R-5), A. Donald McEachin (D-4), and Scott Taylor (R-2).
Though data privacy is paramount, the suspension of the DRT will require manual input of additional financial data and poses a significant administrative burden that will likely impact Virginia students’ ability to receive student aid—particularly for first generation students and those from lower-income families. The members urge Secretary Trent to encourage the Commonwealth’s colleges and universities to provide flexibility in deadlines for need-based scholarships and grants and institutional financial aid.
A copy of the members’ letter is available here.