03.16.17

Scott, Foxx, Murray, Alexander Request Briefing from Department of Education on FAFSA Data Retrieval Tool Outage

In letter, chairs and ranking members of Senate and House education committees request information regarding weeks-long outage of IRS’ Data Retrieval Tool that makes it easier for students to apply for financial aid

WASHINGTON –Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), the chair and ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, respectively, and Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), chair and ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, respectively, sent a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today asking for more information about the cause and scope of the outage of the Internal Revenue Services’ Data Retrieval Tool (DRT).

“We appreciate the initial actions taken by the U.S. Department of Education (Department) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to address this issue, and we are writing to obtain further information about the cause and scope of the outage and the steps the Department and the IRS will take to assist students and families that are impacted,” said the Members of Congress in the letter.

“The availability of the [Data Retrieval Tool] saves families and individuals time, streamlines the application process, and improves accuracy of applications. Unfortunately, the DRT appears to have been unavailable since the end of the first week in March, and the joint statement indicates that it will be “several weeks” until the DRT will be back online. The loss of the DRT could discourage many eligible low-income students from applying for aid or IDR plans altogether.”

The IRS’ DRT tool allows students to access their tax information from the IRS and directly input it into their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Senators Alexander and Murray, and Representatives Foxx and Scott are requesting a briefing from the Department of Education on the steps the Department is taking to remedy the situation for students, borrowers, and parents, and what the Department is doing to protect students’ data privacy and security.

The full text of the letter can be found here and below. 

March 16, 2017

The Honorable Betsy DeVos

Secretary of Education

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202

Dear Secretary DeVos:

We are writing about your recent notification that the Internal Revenue Service Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) is currently unavailable. We appreciate the initial actions taken by the U.S. Department of Education (Department) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to address this issue, and we are writing to obtain further information about the cause and scope of the outage and the steps the Department and the IRS will take to assist students and families that are impacted.

The DRT is an integral part of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the process that student loan borrowers use when applying for and recertifying their income-driven repayment (IDR) plans on StudentLoans.gov. The availability of the DRT saves families and individuals time, streamlines the application process, and improves accuracy of applications. Unfortunately, the DRT appears to have been unavailable since the end of the first week in March, and the joint statement indicates that it will be “several weeks” until the DRT will be back online. The loss of the DRT could discourage many eligible low-income students from applying for aid or IDR plans altogether.

We are requesting a staff briefing from you that includes the appropriate staff from all the relevant Department offices involved in this situation to obtain further information about the nature of the current outage. We would like to hear about the timeline of events from the start of the outage to an estimated reinstatement date; steps the Department is taking to remedy the situation for students, borrowers and parents; and the actions the Department will take to protect applicants’ data privacy and security during and after this outage. We would like this briefing to occur before next Friday, March 24 and request that you bring copies of the Department’s policies and procedures regarding data privacy and security issues.

Thank you for your attention to this request and look forward to your reply. 

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Press Contact

Democratic Press Office, 202-226-0853

Mairead Lynn, 202-224-5398 (Murray)

Tyler Hernandez, 202-226-9440 (Foxx)

Taylor Haulsee, 202-224-8816 (Alexander)

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