Call Security! FAFSA Retrieval Was Shut Down for Breach, Not Maintenance

DC Shuttle …

FAFSA Data Breach. The U.S. Education Department announced that it has partially restored an online tool that automatically provides borrowers’ income data when they repay their students loans through an income-driven repayment program. The IRS and Education Department suspended the tool in March. A grand jury indictment gave greater detail about why the Department of Education and IRS had shut down a data tool used on the FAFSA. Two men used an online tool meant to help students apply for financial aid to obtain or attempt to obtain more than $12 million in federal tax refunds, according to the filing. Over the course of two years, they obtained the personal information needed to file false tax returns “by purchasing it, or by obtaining tax information through the Data Retrieval Tool on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid website,” the indictment says. The IRS website initially said that the tool had been taken down for maintenance, but later revealed the problem was the security breach. The Education Department announced it is in the process of beefing up security measures. Officials have said the tool would be fully functioning by Oct. 1. The Indianapolis Star reports.

Senate Hearing on Education Budget. The Senate Appropriations Education Subcommittee held a hearing on the administration’s budget proposal for the Department of Education, hearing testimony from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. DeVos defended the administration’s proposal and the budget’s focus on school choice, saying they intended to return control to the states and localities. Members of both parties were harshly critical of the funding proposal and many vowed to fight the proposal and the cuts. Subcommittee Chair Roy Blunt (R-MO) said students would be hurt by cuts to programs that promoted career and technical education and it would “be all but impossible to get those kinds of cuts through this committee.” He added, “The kinds of cuts that are proposed in this budget will not occur.” The hearing showed the bipartisan agreement that President’s Trump’s budget proposal will not be the start of funding negotiations and that the level of cuts is unacceptable to lawmakers. Democrats were very critical of the cuts, the Hill reports. Regarding higher education, DeVos said she considers HEA reauthorization a priority and hopes that the student loan system can be reformed during the process. She also said the administration believes that community colleges play a crucial role and their programs should be expanded. She emphasized that community colleges have helped partner with employers to address workforce needs and create programs to provide students with in-demand skills. DeVos also clarified remarks she made during a House hearing last month, under pointed questioning, promising to ensure that federal school choice programs would require schools to follow laws for students with disabilities.

Jerry Falwell Jr. Details Higher Ed Taskforce. Jerry Falwell Jr. revealed more details about a White House taskforce on higher education, saying that he would be invited to be part of the taskforce, rather than lead it. “The White House contacted me last week and asked me to be a part of a group of 15 college presidents to address education issues,” he said. “This is a White House task force and not a Department of Education task force.” Politico reports.

We publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington collected by the New England Council, of which NEBHE is a member. This edition is drawn from the Higher Education Update in the Council’s Weekly Washington Report of June 12, 2017. For more information, please visit:



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