The U.S. Department of Education said Friday that it will automatically reprocess the federal financial aid applications of tens of thousands of students whose aid eligibility was likely reduced because of a decimal place error. The problem came to light this month after some students and families filling out the online Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, incorrectly entered both dollars and cents into a box that was supposed to accept only whole-dollar values.
As a result, the agency said, the government’s computer system interpreted a student reporting an income of $5,000.19 as having an income of $500,019, which would likely reduce that student’s eligibility for need-based grants and loans.
Department officials said in guidance to colleges on Friday that they planned re-process the applications of the “fewer than 200,000 applicants” nationwide who they believe were affected by the problem. The department also said that on July 1 it reprogrammed its online FAFSA form to automatically drop any fractional dollar amounts that are erroneously entered into the system in order to prevent the problem from recurring.