MEFA Institute: Helping Your Students and Families Create FSA IDs

Although the 2024-25 FAFSA will be delayed until December 2023, there are steps that students and families should take this fall to ensure they are ready to apply for financial aid once the FAFSA becomes available. One of the most important steps will be creating FSA IDs (usernames and passwords) for family members who need to contribute information on the new FAFSA.


Please note that this transcript was auto-generated. We apologize for any minor errors in spelling or grammar.

Julie Shields-Rutyna: Well, good morning everyone. Thank you so much for joining us this morning. My name is Julie Shields Rutina, and I'm the Director of College Planning, Education, and Training at MIFA. And this is part of the MIFA Institute, which of course is a training program. For all of you who work so closely with students and families.

Um, and we have lessons on all kinds of topics and come back. Often you can receive professional development points or attending these and this morning. The topic is helping your students and families create FSA IDs, and we have three wonderful presenters this morning. We have Sean Morrissey, who is the director of college relations at MIFA, and I will just say I feel so fortunate, always to be working with Sean, but especially this fall when so much is changing with the FAFSA and Sean is staying so up to date as up to date as we can be right because today is up to date and tomorrow we'll learn something new.

But it's really wonderful that Sean has been keeping up with all of this and dreaming up creative ways to make sure this information gets out to all of you and to students and families. And then we're so lucky also to have two other panelists who are working. So, so much with students and families and, um, also, uh, share that that concern and that drive to make sure all this great information gets out.

So let me introduce first Miriam Alfaro, and she is the current senior education advisor. At the high school level for gear up, Boston, she has worked with gear up for the past three years and has been in the field of college access for more than five years. She attended the Boston public schools and received her bachelor's degree in psychology and special education from Boston University.

So, welcome Miriam, and we look forward to you sharing all of all of the work you're doing right now with your students. And then we have Taryn Tompkins and Taryn earned her, her M. A. in school counseling from UConn, and she has been working in the GEAR UP program for over 20 years, directing the GEAR UP program at Worcester East Middle School and North High School for most of those years.

She's currently the director of professional development and staff support, working with GEAR UP staff all around Massachusetts. So. Very fortunate to have these these three experts with us this morning. So I guess I will just tell I won't stop talking here. So I just want to give you a couple of logistics on the webinar.

So we're gonna get this done quickly. Half an hour. We know you're so busy, but ask any questions you have. We'll leave a little time for questions at the end. Just ask them in the Q and a section on your screen. And also, if you would like closed captioning. so much. Press the live transcript button and you'll be able to see the words that we're speaking across the screen and if you have to leave, that's okay.

We're going to send you a copy of this recording tomorrow and I'll just again say another word about MIFA. MIFA is a state authority that helps families plan, save and pay for college and we work with families. We work with counselors and we work with colleges and especially for you as counselors, um, We want to help you in whatever ways we can to support the work that you do.

So stay in touch with us and let us know what more we can be doing with that. Sean. I'm going to turn it over to you.

Shawn Morrissey: Thank you, Julie. Okay, so let's get right into the meat of the issue here. So, who needs an FSA ID and this is changing a little bit for this year. So. In the past, um, it was the custodial parent who would be on the FAFSA.

Now, on the FAFSA, it's going to be a little bit different for families who are, um, divorced and separated. The good news is, within the new FAFSA, there is going to be a Who Is My Parent wizard that is going to take students through the process. But right now, where the FAFSA is delayed and is not available yet, Um, we'll go through choosing who that parent is and what that process is so that families can get an FSA ID ahead of the FAFSA coming out so they can get ahead of the game because the FSA ID process can take a few days, um, to finalize.

So we want to make sure that families get that before the FAFSA is available so they're not scrambling to get their FSA ID once that becomes available. Later in December, or sometime in December, they may surprise us and come out early in December with the FAFSA. We don't know the exact date yet. Um, so I'm just going to share a little bit before I go through this whole thing, just to show you a great PDF that we will share with a few, um, as well after the, the, Session that is going to show graphically for families.

Um, exactly the FSA ID process. And that who's my parent that you can share with families and we'll be going through this as well, but we will share with you this PDF. That is a great tool to share with families who have confusion about who they need and who needs an FSA ID and and their family.

Okay, so if the dependent students parents. Or adopted or biological parents are married and living in the same household, then, um, their information is going to be needed on the FAFSA. What they're going to have to decide to determine who of. Those two parents needs the FSA ID is dependent on how they filed their taxes.

Because the new process in the new FAFSA is pulling the information directly from the IRS and they have to give consent in that process and that process uses the FSA ID. So it's all dependent on how they file taxes as to who needs an FSA ID now. So if they're Biological adopted parents are married or living in the same household and unmarried.

If they filed jointly their taxes, only 1 parent needs an FSA ID. If their parents filed separately, both of those parents will need an FSA ID. And if both of those parents didn't file taxes or one of them didn't file taxes, both of the parents need an FSA ID. And then if the parents are biological or adopted parents are divorced or separated, then it gets into a situation where you have to determine.

Which of the parent provided more financial support in the last year? If both of the parents provided completely equal support, then it's whichever parent has the greater income or assets is then going to be the parent of record. And then if neither parent provided support in the last year, you go back to the last time that parent did provide support for that student.

And then whichever one provided more support in that most recent year is going to be the parent of record in that case. I'm just going to go back quickly to the case of parents providing more than 50 percent and equal. Amounts 5050. Um, the guidance that we're hearing from the department about providing exactly equal 5050.

they don't think that there's really many real world situations where every both parents pay exactly 5050. 1 of the examples that we've heard is that if 1 parent. buys an extra cup of coffee for that student, then that puts them over the edge for providing more than 50 percent of the support. So you could take a look at your family situation and if in one of the households you provide a little bit more expensive food for that for that student.

Um, that may be a case where that pair is providing more than 50%. But the families are supposed to make the determination on their own who's providing more than 50 percent of the support. Um, and then if it's, is exactly equal, that's when you go to whoever has the greater income or assets. So then once you determine, um, which parent is going to be providing their information on the FAFSA, you take a look at if that parent is remarried.

If the parent is not remarried, then only that parent of record needs an FSA ID. If the parent is remarried and the parents file jointly, then only one parent needs that FSA ID. If the parent is remarried and they file separately, then both that parent and the step parent needs an FSA ID. If, um, the parent of record and the, their spouse do not file taxes, Then both of them need an FSA ID.

So what it comes down to is in order to give consent to bring that tax information in there or for the IRS to determine that you did not file taxes each person has to give consent for that. If you file a joint tax return, both of those, those people have ownership of that joint tax, so then only one person needs that FSA ID.

So really the only time that, um, one FSA ID is needed is if the parent is not married, um, or if they file jointly. Otherwise, both parents will need to be, have an FSA ID on that. For independent students. If they are not married, then only the student needs an FSA ID. If they are married and file a joint tax return with their spouse, then only the student needs an FSA ID.

If they are married and filed separately, both the student and spouse need an FSA ID. And if they're married and do not file taxes, then they both need an FSA ID.

Okay, so what remains the same about the process? So it's still on studentaid. gov. That students would go in family members would go to create their FSA ID to start the FAFSA. Um, they're going to have to enter personal information, their name, date of birth, social security number, they create a username and password.

So it will let you know if the username that you're choosing is taken already. If that happens, then it'll ask you to choose a different username. They'll give contact information, communication preferences. That means if by email, by cell phone, um, those are the different preferences that they can choose, then they're off.

Offered challenge questions. You choose which ones you want to use and that will just help them retrieve their password if they end up forgetting that. Um, they do have to set up multi factor authentication now, which means they either get an email or they get a text message that will verify that it's really them when they're logging in with that FSA ID.

And then The part that's going to take a couple of days to complete and why we urge families to try to get this done as soon as possible is there's an identity match now with social security administration, when a social security number is provided. I'll talk in just a moment about the new process for students with.

Out of social security number, but for those with a social security number, it does go to the social security administration and doesn't match. And once that match is completed, then the, then the FSA ID is verified and they can use that to provide consent on the FAFSA. Now, um, so. The big one of the big recommendations is to make sure that everyone that is going out to get an FSA ID is using the exact information that is on the social security card.

So make sure the spelling the name everything on that social security in our card is matching with what you're putting in for your FSA ID so don't use any nicknames don't. Use a shortened name. Make sure that you're using the legal name that's on your social security card. If you've changed your name legally, but haven't changed it with the social security administration, make sure you're using your name that's on your social security card or get that name fixed with the social secure social Why can't I say social security this morning?

Social security administration before you complete this process. So what is changing? So, um, now all the contributors, which we went through in the last slide, need an FSA ID in order to access the FAFSA online. In the past, only one parent would have to sign the FAFSA. Now there are some cases where two parents may have to be on the FAFSA and need an FSA ID.

That identity match is required for each contributor to verify their FSA ID. So, there are some situations where family members may have an FSA ID already that hasn't gone through the social security match, if that happens. They'll be prompted to go back into the FSA ID site and go through that match process.

They'll also need a verified email address. Now there are some cases where a verified email was not in an older FSA ID. So if you do have families that already have an FSA ID without an email address, they will be prompted again to go back and make sure they put that email address in there. Now there is going to be a process that users without a social security number can apply for an FSA ID.

There's more information coming out about that this week, so we will have follow up webinars talking about the whole process for users without a social security number. What we've heard so far is it's going to be a knowledge based identity verification process that's going to go against, um, Credit Bureau information, which would be verifying address, things like that.

But we don't know the exact details yet. And there's also supposed to be a secondary process for those that don't have information with the credit Bureau to help them through this process. So we will share more information about this because this is a very important process and it will be new to, um, everybody since they've FSA ID without social security numbers before.

And, um, as part of the FAFSA process, the student will send an email invite to all contributors to come back and, um, enter in their information on the FAFSA and Okay. Thanks! Those contributors will receive a customized link depending on whether they have an FSA ID or not. So if the contributor that's invited does not have an FSA ID, the link will helpfully bring them right back to the FSA ID creation site rather than bringing them directly to the FAFSA.

If they do have an FSA ID already, it's going to bring them right into the FAFSA to um, Um, fill in their information there. So it'll probably, it should be more helpful for families, um, to fill out the FAFSA and create an FSA ID through that process. So I talked a little bit about the process for non SSN holders.

Um, there is going to be a training on November 2nd, um, There is a link here and we will be sharing these slides with you that you can go to FSA training dot ed dot gov to sign up for that training. But we will also be sharing details on that as well. And here's just a screenshot of what that FSA ID creation page looks like.

Just very straightforward. Just looking for name. Um, date of birth, social security number, and you see a box, there's a box there that I don't have a social security number. Currently, it will let them know that there is a process coming out very shortly before the FAFSA debuts is what we've been told. Um, there will be a link for that new process.


now I'll turn it over. Yes,

Julie Shields-Rutyna: well, in our conversation before we started, Miriam shared that, um, she held a great event with her students last night. So I don't know if Miriam, you would like to talk about that. And also all the other things you're doing, working with your students to help them get started on this process.

Miriam Alfaro Ortez: Yeah, absolutely. So, um, I work directly at the high school. I'm in a student facing role. So, of course, we're always doing one on one advising here at the office, but our goal is always to provide as many opportunities for students and families, their parents to come in and meet with us, um, and we want to be as accessible as possible.

So, we held two FSAID creation events in October, and our goal is to continue them all the way Until the fastest released, and then in the spring semester, January forward, we'll switch from FSA ID creation to actual FAFSA completion events, and then we want to be as accessible as possible to parents, so we hold the workshops with the slides in English and Spanish, and then we also do them on different days of the weeks and different timeframes.

So we've done them from 4 to 6 from 5 to 7 moving forward. We also want to do them from 2 to 4, like straight after school, because that's typically when our school day ends. So that's kind of the big push that we've been doing in regard to event outside of 1 on 1 advising. And then our goal always is to partner with the teachers that are at our disposal at the school.

So we want to definitely do workshops with teachers that have majority senior classes. And then just early exposure. So we wanna, we work with students as early as seventh grade. So even at the high school level, when we're meeting with our 10th and 11th grader, just letting them know like financial aid is part of the process.

Julie Shields-Rutyna: That's great. And you had a big crowd last night, isn't that true? Yeah, we

Miriam Alfaro Ortez: had about 12, um, families come through. Um. Considering it was raining here yesterday. Um, that was a pretty

Julie Shields-Rutyna: good turnout. That's great. And I'll ask just, I guess, two more questions. Um, one, any, any specific questions that came up that We're challenging or blocks that you have to wait and say, we'll have to give you more information or anything like that last night.

Miriam Alfaro Ortez: Yeah. So, um, it was great that the guide with the PDF was released because there were parents that were not even aware that they had to create an advocacy ID for themselves aside from just their student. And especially now, and so, Because every family files differently, um, they weren't even aware that both parents might have to create those FSA IDs, since in the past it had only just been the one.

Um, and it comes up multiple times, but sometimes the FSA ID creation website crashes and parents get the error that they aren't able to Finish verifying their account and we have to start all over. So that's something that we also, um, have to walk parents through. Yeah. And we also, um, parents have other children who already went through the process.

So some parents, um, had their accounts logged or they didn't remember their username and passwords. So it's about walking them through the process of how to retrieve a username

Julie Shields-Rutyna: and login information. Yeah. And how do you get in from how did you get information out to the students and their families about last night's event?

Yeah, we do.

Miriam Alfaro Ortez: Um, lots of promotion. So we do in class visits to let all the students know that it's happening. We have an RSVP form for everybody to sign up and let us know that they're interested. So we'll do follow up just to confirm that the event is still happening, where it's located, where we'll be.

And constant reminders, because students definitely forget. All right. We also are very lucky to be, our office is housed right within the senior cafeteria, so we have two cafeterias in our high school, um, and the seniors eat separately, so we'll just directly walk out into their cafeteria and table during lunch to remind them that it's happening, we'll bring out the laptops, have them RSVP inside.

Julie Shields-Rutyna: That's great. That's great. And Taryn, I know we, we added to that conversation to talk about we feel an urgency to get students and families to do this. Um, you know, what are some, how can we, how can we help them feel that urgency?

Taryn Tomkins: Absolutely. Well, I think, you know, as we know, it takes a village. It's one person in a school isn't responsible for all of the kids.

It really takes a team of people working diligently on getting this information out to the students and their families. And, and that can really include just being present and visible every chance you get. So open houses for schools, know your School night, plays, concerts, sporting events, any place where parents might be.

We should also be trying to get the word out. Um, certainly we have FSAID events like Miriam created at her school. Um, we have worked with coaches to identify the seniors and so at our, at, at North where I worked for many, many years. They had a study hall after school. So we would go and visit the students at the study hall to talk to them about the importance of the FSA ID and to set up times to create FSA IDs with them.

If there are school based parenting groups, it's great to work with them because you can reach families that way to get information out and through all calls. And, and why is this important because we, we've talked about this a few times, but it really comes down to consent. And I think what the students and their families really need to understand is that with this new FAFSA, you must provide consent in order to get a financial aid award.

And consent is provided with a verified FSA ID so students can no longer create the FSA ID. And at the same day, have the family start the FAFSA. It takes a few days. For this to be verified. And if there are problems with the social security number, or if the parent accidentally makes a mistake, that's going to add on to the time, which is then going to delay when you can start your FAFSA.

So, earlier is always better. And that's just the message through all of those venues that we try to get across, because if there is no consent, there is no financial aid

Julie Shields-Rutyna: offer. You know, I'm looking at the words on the screen, which we actually took some of this information, you know, when talking with, with, um, families, you know, that one counselor said that, you know, they.

They share information that the Department of Ed doesn't share that information, all of that. So, but when you see it in bullet points, it looks so easy. And I know these conversations are not easy. Um, so I think we all, first of all, look forward to this new information on the process for, you know, parents who don't have a social security number, but any, any other thoughts or plans that, um, that you'll have to work with students in this, in this type of a situation.

Not knowing all the details yet,

Taryn Tomkins: right? Well, I think just going to the screen, just highlighting that the tech savviness levels differ. They absolutely do. So you might have we have many times when we create these with students, they feel comfortable because it's fairly straightforward process for the most part, and they feel comfortable going home and working with their parent to create the FSA ID.

And that's wonderful when that happens. But then there's other times where The parents may not have the email. So, and they may not even really know how to create one. So they need some help and if they can come into our office. We can create that email with them and, and help them. We helped over the phone.

We've helped over zoom, but just being sensitive to the fact that just because you tell someone they need to do it, that doesn't necessarily mean they know how. So trying to take that extra step to see if they have, uh, an email, if they have a computer, if they know how to use the computer and the fear about providing the government, that that's.

It's a really difficult and sensitive conversation to have because while we can say and explain what FERPA is and that their information is protected and the Department of Ed doesn't speak to ICE or anybody else, it's very scary for families to contemplate filling out something for the government that might show that they're here undocumented.

So, I think all we can do is present the information that we have. And the families will have to make their decisions from there. But Massachusetts in particular, you know, there will be additional monies as we're finding out for undocumented students. So more important than ever to give them all the information they need so they can access money for their education.

Julie Shields-Rutyna: And I know, Miriam, you mentioned that your materials and your workshops, you have people present in English, people present in Spanish, which I think is so key to be able to speak to parents, especially, right? Um, in their own language.

Miriam Alfaro Ortez: Yeah, we also have, um, similar to the Bullet point on being tech savvy.

We also know that everybody works kind of at a different pace. So we have, um, our slides include screenshots of step by step for every single, um, for example, if they, we have a slide showing the screenshots for communications, a different slide for the security questions. Um, and we go through the slides just to give everybody key reminders such as.

Make sure you're using a personal email and not your school email, because that will get shut off. Make sure your password doesn't include, you know, any identified information, such as date of birth. So we'll give them all the tips for every single slide, and then we allow them to work at their own pace, and we'll rotate around the tables.

Because we want to ensure that people don't jump ahead without knowing key reminders. Even with security questions, we always recommend, you know, maybe your mother's maiden name rather than your favorite movie because a maiden name would never change compared to someone's favorite movie.

Julie Shields-Rutyna: That's terrific.

Any questions for Sean, Miriam, Taryn? Let me see.

Let's see. I don't see any. I'll give it another 30 seconds or so. Oh, yeah. Anything you want to say here, Sean, about the FAFSA guides?

Shawn Morrissey: I just wanted to point out the FAFSA demo prototype. That if you haven't seen that yet, that there is a great prototype out there that you can, um, look at what the FAFSA is going to look like the new, um, simplified FAFSA, and it will bring you through what it looks like from a different. Family situation, so you can go in there as a student as one of the contributors as an independent student, a dependent student.

There are a few different scenarios that you can look at and see what that process looks like. If you are 1 of those contributors and. It is not a live, um, demo. So it's not changing with the FAFSA that they are developing. For real development, so it is a point in time prototype. As of, I think this debuted sometime in September, so they're not making improvements along the lines as they do with the real fast.

So it may be a little bit different than what the actual FAFSA looks like when it is actually released, but it is a good. sense and feel of what that process is going to look like. And it will be a more friendly experience, I believe, for families than what they had in the, in the older FAFSA. So the good news in all of this is it may be complicated for all of us, um, but for families.

It is going to be a much easier process for most families, except for the fact that they may need to have more than one FSA ID for parents now, which may be more complicated for some

Julie Shields-Rutyna: families. Well, I want to thank all of you. We did get a question. We will send the recording and the slides to you tomorrow.

So you'll have all of this you'll be able to see the demo prototype and we will also send you that PDF of who needs an FSA ID so you can use that in your offices and we will promise to. Have additional webinars as we learn more about all of this process, and I hope you agree. But I think this half hour in the morning, um, and taking different pieces of the process maybe will fit in your day.

So I let us know if this worked. If this is good. Would you prefer eight or is this good? Please give us give us feedback on all of that. And thank you, Sean, for showing that there are more community resources Um, that we'll be sending you in the PDF as well and Miriam, Taryn, Sean, thank you so much for sharing all of that.

And thank you for being here with us and we'll see you again soon and have a, have a great day. Happy Halloween. Thanks.

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