20 USC 1090 - Forms and regulations

(a) Common financial aid form development and processing 

(1) Single form required 
The Secretary, in cooperation with representatives of agencies and organizations involved in student financial assistance, shall produce, distribute, and process free of charge a common financial reporting form to be used to determine the need and eligibility of a student for financial assistance under parts A through D of this subchapter and part C of subchapter I of chapter 34 of title 42 (other than under subpart 4 of part A of this subchapter). The Secretary shall include on the form developed under this subsection such data items as the Secretary determines are appropriate for inclusion. Such items shall be selected in consultation with States to assist in the awarding of State financial assistance. In no case shall the number of such data items be less than the number included on the form on October 7, 1998. Such form shall satisfy the requirements of section 1070a (d) of this title.
(2) Charges to students and parents for use of form prohibited 
The common financial reporting form prescribed by the Secretary under paragraph (1) shall be produced, distributed, and processed by the Secretary and no parent or student shall be charged a fee for the collection, processing, or delivery of financial aid through the use of such form. The need and eligibility of a student for financial assistance under parts A through D of this subchapter and part C of subchapter I of chapter 34 of title 42 (other than under subpart 4 of part A of this subchapter) may only be determined by using the form developed by the Secretary pursuant to paragraph (1) of this subsection. No student may receive assistance under parts A through D of this subchapter and part C of subchapter I of chapter 34 of title 42 (other than under subpart 4 of part A of this subchapter), except by use of the form developed by the Secretary pursuant to this section. No data collected on a form for which a fee is charged shall be used to complete the form prescribed under paragraph (1).
(3) Distribution of data 
Institutions of higher education, guaranty agencies, and States shall receive, without charge, the data collected by the Secretary using the form developed pursuant to this section for the purposes of processing loan applications and determining need and eligibility for institutional and State financial aid awards. Entities designated by institutions of higher education, guaranty agencies, or States to receive such data shall be subject to all the requirements of this section, unless such requirements are waived by the Secretary.

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(4) Contracts for collection and processing 

(A) The Secretary shall, to the extent practicable, enter into not less than 5 contracts with States, institutions of higher education, or private organizations for the purposes of the timely collection and processing of the form developed pursuant to paragraph (1) and the timely delivery of the data submitted on such form. The Secretary shall use such contracts to assist States and institutions of higher education with the collection of additional data required to award State or institutional financial assistance, except that the Secretary shall not include these additional data items on the common financial reporting form developed pursuant to this section. The Secretary shall include in each such contract a requirement that
(i) any charges by the contractor to the student or parent for additional data items required by a State or institution for any purpose (regardless of the method of collection) shall be reasonable and shall not exceed the marginal cost of collecting, processing, and delivering such additional data, taking into account any payment received by the contractor to produce, distribute, and process the common financial reporting form prescribed by the Secretary pursuant to paragraph (1); and
(ii) the contractor will require any person or entity to whom the contractor provides such additional data to agree not to collect from any student or parent any charge that would not be permitted under this subparagraph for any such additional data.
(B) To the extent practicable, the Secretary shall ensure that at least one contractor, or a portion of one contract, under this paragraph will serve graduate and professional students.
(C) As part of the procurement process for the 19931994 award year, and for all procurements thereafter pertaining to the contracts under this paragraph, the Secretary shall require all entities competing for such contracts to comply with all requirements of this subsection and to
(i) use the common financial reporting form as prescribed in paragraph (1), which shall be clearly identified as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid; and
(ii) use a common, simplified reapplication form as the Secretary shall prescribe pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, in each award year.
(D) The Secretary shall reimburse all approved contractors at a reasonable predetermined rate for processing such applications, for issuing eligibility reports, and for carrying out other services or requirements that may be prescribed by the Secretary.
(E) All approved contractors shall be required to adhere to all editing, processing, and reporting requirements established by the Secretary to ensure consistency.

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(F) No approved contractor shall enter into exclusive arrangements with guarantors, lenders, secondary markets, or institutions of higher education for the purpose of reselling or sharing of data collected for the multiple data entry process. All data collected under a contract issued by the Secretary pursuant to this paragraph for the multiple data entry process is the exclusive property of the Secretary and may not be transferred to a third party by an approved contractor without the Secretarys express written approval.
(5) Electronic forms 

(A) The Secretary, in cooperation with representatives of agencies and organizations involved in student financial assistance, including private computer software providers, shall develop an electronic version of the form described in paragraph (1). As permitted by the Secretary, such an electronic version shall not require a signature to be collected at the time such version is submitted, if a signature is subsequently submitted by the applicant. The Secretary shall prescribe such version not later than 120 days after October 7, 1998.
(B) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the use of the form developed by the Secretary pursuant to subparagraph (A) by an eligible institution, eligible lender, guaranty agency, State grant agency, private computer software providers, a consortium thereof, or such other entities as the Secretary may designate.
(C) No fee shall be charged to students in connection with the use of the electronic version of the form, or of any other electronic forms used in conjunction with such form in applying for Federal or State student financial assistance.
(D) The Secretary shall ensure that data collection complies with section 552a of title 5 and that any entity using the electronic version of the form developed by the Secretary pursuant to subparagraph (A) shall maintain reasonable and appropriate administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to ensure the integrity and confidentiality of the information, and to protect against security threats, or unauthorized uses or disclosures of the information provided on the electronic version of the form. Data collected by such version of the form shall be used only for the application, award, and administration of aid awarded under this subchapter and part C of subchapter I of chapter 34 of title 42, State aid, or aid awarded by eligible institutions or such entities as the Secretary may designate. No data collected by such version of the form shall be used for making final aid awards under this subchapter and part C of subchapter I of chapter 34 of title 42 until such data have been processed by the Secretary or a contractor or designee of the Secretary.
(6) Third party servicers and private software providers 
To the extent practicable and in a timely manner, the Secretary shall provide, to private organizations and consortia that develop software used by eligible institutions for the administration of funds under this subchapter and part C of subchapter I of chapter 34 of title 42, all the necessary specifications that the organizations and consortia must meet for the software the organizations and consortia develop, produce, and distribute (including any diskette, modem, or network communications) which are so used. The specifications shall contain record layouts for required data. The Secretary shall develop in advance of each processing cycle an annual schedule for providing such specifications. The Secretary, to the extent practicable, shall use means of providing such specifications, including conferences and other meetings, outreach, and technical support mechanisms (such as training and printed reference materials). The Secretary shall, from time to time, solicit from such organizations and consortia means of improving the support provided by the Secretary.
(7) Parent’s social security number and birth date 
The Secretary is authorized to include on the form developed under this subsection space for the social security number and birth date of parents of dependent students seeking financial assistance under this subchapter and part C of subchapter I of chapter 34 of title 42.
(b) Streamlined reapplication process 

(1) The Secretary shall develop a streamlined reapplication form and process, including electronic reapplication process, consistent with the requirements of subsection (a) of this section, for those recipients who apply for financial aid funds under this subchapter and part C of subchapter I of chapter 34 of title 42 in the next succeeding academic year subsequent to the initial year in which such recipients apply.
(2) The Secretary shall develop appropriate mechanisms to support reapplication.
(3) The Secretary shall determine, in cooperation with States, institutions of higher education, agencies and organizations involved in student financial assistance, the data elements that can be updated from the previous academic years application.
(4) Nothing in this subchapter and part C of subchapter I of chapter 34 of title 42 shall be interpreted as limiting the authority of the Secretary to reduce the number of data elements required of reapplicants.
(5) Individuals determined to have a zero family contribution pursuant to section 1087ss of this title shall not be required to provide any financial data, except that which is necessary to determine eligibility under that section.
(c) Information to committees of Congress 
Copies of all rules, regulations, guidelines, instructions, and application forms published or promulgated pursuant to this subchapter and part C of subchapter I of chapter 34 of title 42 shall be provided to the Committee on Labor and Human Resources of the Senate and the Committee on Education and the Workforce of the House of Representatives at least 45 days prior to their effective date.
(d) Toll-free information 
The Secretary shall contract for, or establish, and publicize a toll-free telephone service to provide timely and accurate information to the general public. The information provided shall include specific instructions on completing the application form for assistance under this subchapter and part C of subchapter I of chapter 34 of title 42. Such service shall also include a service accessible by telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDDs) and shall, in addition to the services provided for in the previous sentence, refer such students to the national clearinghouse on postsecondary education that is authorized under section 1485 (d)(2)(C) of this title.
(e) Preparer 
Any financial aid application required to be made under this subchapter and part C of subchapter I of chapter 34 of title 42 shall include the name, signature, address or employers address, social security number or employer identification number, and organizational affiliation of the preparer of such financial aid application.