A tool that millions of students have used to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the Fafsa, will be offline until the fall, the Internal Revenue Service and the Education Department’s Federal Student Aid office announced on Thursday.
The IRS and the department announced the outage of the Data Retrieval Tool, a resource that makes it easier to fill out the Fafsa, earlier this month, several days after the tool mysteriously went offline.
“While this tool provides an important convenience for applicants, we cannot risk the safety of taxpayer data,” said John Koskinen, the IRS commissioner, in a news release.
“We will do all we can to help students and families successfully submit applications while the tool is unavailable, and remain committed to protecting applicants’ personal information,” James W. Runcie, chief operating officer of the Federal Student Aid office, said in the release. Several people, Mr. Runcie added, had reached out to say applying for federal aid was more difficult without the tool.
On Monday a bipartisan group of lawmakers on the education committees in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives sent a letter to the department urging it to help students and families affected by the outage. In the letter, the legislators express concern about the students and families who would be unable to use the tool, and urged the department to take several actions.
Top members of the House and Senate education committees requested a briefing on the outage earlier this month. The department held the briefing on Thursday afternoon, aides to the lawmakers told The Chronicle.