IRS Data Retrieval Tool That Helps FAFSA Completion is Down
According to a joint statement released by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Department of Education (ED), the IRS Data Retrieval Tool that allows students to automatically import tax information to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will be unavailable for “several weeks” due to data security concerns.
The agencies have asked students to “manually provide the requested financial information from copies of their tax return.” Last week, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) released a statement noting the importance of the tool and suggesting immediate steps ED can implement in the interim to ensure the FAFSA process moves forward as efficiently as possible for students.
The issue is of particular concern to institutions in states with upcoming state financial aid deadlines and students who may become discouraged by a more complicated FAFSA process. The disabling of the tool has also impacted the application and renewal of income-based repayment programs.
Senate Votes to Repeal Teacher Prep Rule
Last week, by a vote of 59-40, the Senate passed H.J.Res. 58, a measure to repeal the Obama administration’s teacher prep rule under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). APLU was among a number of higher education organizations that supported the measure. The CRA resolution cleared the House last month and now heads to President Trump, who is expected to sign it into law.
USCIS Temporarily Suspends Premium H-1B Visa Processing
The Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced earlier this month that premium processing for all H-1B petitions will be temporarily suspended for up to six months starting on April 3. The suspension will apply to all petitions filed for the FY 2018 H-1B regular cap and master’s advanced degree cap exemption and will include petitions that may be cap-exempt. While premium processing is suspended, petitioners may submit a request to expedite an H-1B petition if they meet certain expedite criteria.
Senators Durbin and Wicker Introduce Legislation to Promote Study Abroad
Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) reintroduced the latest version of the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act with bipartisan support last week. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) are original cosponsors of the bill. This legislation seeks to implement the recommendations of the 2004 Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program, chaired by APLU President Peter McPherson.
The bill would authorize a competitive grants program within the Department of Education to encourage higher education institutions to expand opportunities for study abroad. The goals of the grant program are to increase the number of undergraduate students studying abroad annually to one million within 10 years; increase the number of non-traditional and minority students studying abroad to reflect the demographics of the undergraduate population; and increase the number of students who study abroad in nontraditional destinations, with an emphasis on study abroad in developing countries.