The privacy policy for websites we own covers security, links to other sites, and nonpersonal information that we record.

Learn about how we use the information we collect and how we protect your information.

Privacy

Thank you for visiting our StudentAid.gov website and reviewing our privacy policy. Our policy is simple: We do not collect your personal information unless you choose to provide that information to us, such as when you complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. We share the information you provide us only with those who are authorized to see it, under federal law. We do not sell any personal information to any third party.

If you want to know more about how we record nonpersonal information about your visit or how we use information that you voluntarily submit, read on. You can also view the U.S. Department of Education’s privacy policy.

Otherwise, enjoy your visit!

This privacy policy was last updated on Oct. 1, 2018.

Nonpersonal Information We Record

We use cookies to collect better data on how this site is working for you. If you wish to do so, you may disable cookies in your browser settings.

If you do nothing during your visit but browse through the website, read pages, or download information, our site will automatically record some general information about your visit.

During your visit, our site will record the following:

  • the internet domain for your internet service, such as "xcompany.com" or "xcompany.net" if you use a private internet access account, or "yourschool.edu" if you connect from a college or university domain
  • IP address (internet protocol address), which is a number that is assigned to a device connected to the web
  • the type of browser (such as "Google Chrome version x" or "Mozilla/version x") that you are using
  • the type of operating system that you are using (such as macOS or Windows)
  • the type of device (desktop computer, tablet, or type of mobile device) that you are using
  • the date and time you visit our site, the web pages that you visit on our site, and the length of time you spend on each page
  • the screen resolution, the browser language, the geographic location, how much of a web page was viewed, and things you do on the site (such as clicking on a button)
  • the address of the previous website you were visiting, if you linked to us from another website

Your personal information is not identified in the collection of nonpersonal information.

Cookies

The Office of Management and Budget Memo M-10-22, Guidance for Online Use of Web Measurement and Customization (PDF, 103KB), allows federal agencies to use session and persistent cookies subject to the limitations described within that guidance.

Cookies from StudentAid.gov web pages collect information only about your browser's visit to the site; they do not collect any personal information about you.

There are two types of cookies: single-session (temporary) and multi-session (persistent).

We use single-session cookies for such technical purposes as enabling better navigation through our site. These temporary cookies let our site know that you are continuing a visit to our site. The OMB Memo 10-22 guidance defines our use of temporary session cookies as "Usage Tier 1-Single Session." The guidance states, "This tier encompasses any use of single-session web measurement and customization technologies." Single-session cookies last only as long as your web browser is open. Once you close your browser, the cookie disappears.

We use persistent cookies to enable Google Analytics (third-party analytics provider) to differentiate between new and returning visitors to our site. Persistent cookies from Google Analytics remain on your computer between visits to StudentAid.gov for up to two years

Google Analytics calculates how many individual users visited the StudentAid.gov website in a given time. Combined with total visits, these tools help us create a more comprehensive story about StudentAid.gov users and their visit patterns.

The OMB Memo 10-22 guidance defines our use of persistent cookies as "Usage Tier 2-Multi-session without Personally Identifiable Information (PII)." The guidance states, "This tier encompasses any use of multi-session web measurement and customization technologies when no PII is collected."

As mentioned above, StudentAid.gov uses a third-party analytics provider (Google Analytics) to analyze the data collected through the session and persistent cookies. These third-party analytics providers do not receive PII through these cookies and do not combine, match, or cross-reference StudentAid.gov information with any other information. Please review Google Analytics’ privacy policy for additional information.

Pursuant to OMB Memo 10-22 Attachment 3, these cookies collect information similar to that automatically received and stored on the servers hosting StudentAid.gov. These servers do not collect PII, and StudentAid.gov does not access or store the raw information collected through these cookies. We view aggregate statistical analyses prepared by our third-party analytics providers, but these analyses do not include any PII. We do not sell, rent, exchange, or otherwise disclose this information to individuals or organizations.

StudentAid.gov will keep data collected long enough to achieve the specified objective for which it was collected.

The information we collect is aggregate, and is only available to website managers, members of their communications and web teams, and other designated federal staff and contractors who require this information to perform their duties.

Opting Out or Disabling Cookies

Your website browser’s standard setting may enable cookies by default. If you do not wish to have temporary or persistent cookies stored on your machine, you can opt out or disable cookies in your browser. You will still have access to all information and resources throughout the StudentAid.gov website. However, turning off cookies may affect the functioning of some content within StudentAid.gov. Be aware that disabling cookies in your browser may affect cookie usage at all other websites you visit as well.

How Federal Student Aid Uses Third-party Tools

Website Analytics

Federal Student Aid uses a third-party tool, Google Analytics, to support website analytics and to collect basic site usage information including the following:

  • how many visits StudentAid.gov receives
  • the pages visited
  • time spent on the site
  • the number of return visits to the site
  • the approximate location of the device used to access the site
  • the types of devices used

This information is then used to maintain the website including monitoring site stability, measuring site traffic, optimizing site content, and helping make the site more useful to visitors. You can opt out or disable tracking in your browser.

Digital Advertising Tools for Outreach and Education

We use third-party tools to support our digital advertising outreach and education efforts. These tools enable us to reach new people and provide information to previous visitors. In order to use these tools, we may use the technologies described below.

Click Tracking: We may use click tracking to identify the messaging and/or ads that are most helpful to consumers and efficient for outreach. This enables us to improve the performance of messaging or ads that consumers click on. When users click on links from any messaging or ad, data about which ad was viewed is collected. Reports are generated about ad performance, including the total number of views and clicks an ad received. You can opt out or disable tracking in your browser.

Conversion Tracking: We may use conversion tracking to identify ads that are helpful to consumers and efficient for outreach. This enables us to improve the performance of ads viewed by consumers. When a StudentAid.gov ad (e.g., a banner ad) is viewed on a third-party site, a cookie is placed in the browser of the device the ad was viewed on. If this device later visits StudentAid.gov, the visit is linked to the ad viewed on the same device. This information helps us determine which messaging and/or ads are more likely to generate visits to our websites. You can opt out or disable tracking in your browser. You also can click on the “AdChoices” icon in the corner of our ads to opt out of this ad targeting. Users who have set their browser to “Do Not Track” will automatically be opted out of conversion tracking.

Other Tools

Many of the tools (such as Google Analytics) that we use to gather visitor data and monitor the health of StudentAid.gov are deployed using Tealium iQ. Tealium iQ gives us an easy way to manage these tools.

In the future, we may consider using additional third-party tools that may improve site performance or customer outreach. We’ll provide information on any new tools used on StudentAid.gov below.

  • We use the third-party tool Crazy Egg on StudentAid.gov. Crazy Egg is a tool that creates visual displays of overall site visitor activity on the website. If you wish to opt out of Crazy Egg collecting information when you visit StudentAid.gov, please see the Crazy Egg opt-out instructions.

Links to Other Sites

Our policy discloses the privacy practices for StudentAid.gov; however, StudentAid.gov provides links to other websites as well. When you leave StudentAid.gov, you will be going to sites that are beyond our control. We try to ensure that links that leave our site are clearly labeled. The sites we link to may send their own cookies to users, collect data, or solicit personal information. The privacy policies and procedures described here for StudentAid.gov do not apply to any external links. We encourage you to read the privacy policy of any site you link to from ours, especially if you share any personal information. Be informed. You are the person best qualified to protect your own privacy.

How Collected Information Is Used

Information From the Contact Us Page

If you decide to send us an email via our “Contact Us” page, the message will contain your return email address. If you include personally identifiable information in your email because you want us to address issues specific to your situation, we may use that information in responding to your request. This information is not maintained in a Privacy Act system of records.

Keep in mind that email is not necessarily secure against interception. Please send only information necessary to help us process your request. Do not send your Social Security number (SSN) through email. If we need your SSN to assist you with your issue, we will contact you to obtain it.

If your communication is very sensitive, or includes personal information such as data from your tax return or student loan account, you may prefer to send it by postal mail to:
   Office of Federal Student Aid
   P.O. Box 84
   Washington, DC 20044-0084

Loan-related Information Collected

All the information provided (your driver's license number, the names and addresses of references, etc.) is protected, once it is submitted.

Information Collected for the Federal Student Aid Feedback System

We use the information that you provide to complete the duties and responsibilities related to the FSA Ombudsman, including

  • verifying the identities of individuals;
  • recording complaints and comments;
  • tracking individual cases through final resolution;
  • reporting trends;
  • analyzing the data to recommend improvements in student financial assistance programs; and
  • assisting in the informal resolution of disputes.

You may submit a complaint anonymously, and disclosure of the information requested on this form is voluntary. However, if you do not provide all requested information, we may not be able to conduct a full investigation into your complaint.

Without your consent, we may disclose information that you provide to us to entities under a published routine use. All routine uses may be found in the Office of the Student Loan Ombudsman Records System of Record Notice (18-11-11), as published in the Federal Register on March 8, 2016 (81 FR 12081).

Paperwork Reduction Act Information for the Federal Student Aid Feedback System

According to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, no persons are required to respond to a collection of information unless such collection displays a valid OMB control number. The valid OMB control number for this information collection is 1845-0141. Public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 10 minutes per response, including time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information. The obligation to respond to this collection is voluntary. If you have comments or concerns regarding the status of your submission, please contact the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman group.

Information Collected for the FAFSA® Form

When you apply for federal student aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form, the office of Federal Student Aid is authorized to maintain a record of the transactions related to your application.

Under the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, we are allowed to ask for the information on this form so that we can determine whether you are eligible for aid, and, if so, how much. We will share the information with other agencies, such as the Social Security Administration, to verify the information you put on your application. If you do not give us all of the information we need to process your FAFSA form, your aid may be delayed or denied. Continue reading below for a complete description of the information we must tell you under the Privacy Act.

Privacy Notices

For the information that may be submitted through the FAFSA form, we have completed a Privacy Impact Assessment and a System of Records Notice providing details about the privacy protections and redress options available for the information we collect. For further information, please reference the privacy compliance documentation below:

Privacy Impact Assessment for the Central Processing System

System of Records—Federal Student Aid Application File

State Certification

When you submit the FAFSA form, you are automatically applying for financial aid from your state of legal residence and, in some cases, the state in which your school is located. You are giving your state financial aid agency permission to verify information on your form and to obtain income tax information for all people who are required to report income on your form.

Information Collected from the myStudentAid Mobile App

To save your progress and allow you to track checklist completion, we collect your responses—as nonpersonal information—to the checklist items and store them as a binary number (e.g., 1 = the checklist item was completed, 0 = the checklist item was not completed). We collect no personal information about you unless you choose to provide that information to us, such as when completing the FAFSA form. We do not sell any personal information to a third party.

Information Collected on Our Websites

We use a variety of tools to support web analytics. Our staff analyzes the data collected from these tools. The data and resulting reports are available only to our managers, members of our communications and web teams, and other designated federal staff and contractors who need this information to perform their duties.

How StudentAid.gov Uses Third-party Websites and Applications

As a response to OMB Memo M-10-06, Open Government Directive, StudentAid.gov uses a variety of technologies and social media services to communicate and interact with citizens. These third-party website and application (TPWA) tools include popular social networking and media sites, open-source software communities, and more. Examples include Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

TPWAs are not exclusively operated or controlled by StudentAid.gov. Users of TPWAs often share information with the general public, user community, and/or third-party websites, which may use this information in a variety of ways. TPWAs could also cause personally identifiable information (PII) to become available or accessible to StudentAid.gov and the public, regardless of whether the PII is explicitly asked for or collected by us.

For more information on third-party websites and applications, you can review our social media guidelines.

How User Account Information on the Website Is Protected

Your online account provides access to your federal student aid information in the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS®) database. You can access this secure session by logging in with your account username and password (FSA ID). For more information, view the U.S. Department of Education’s privacy policy.

More About Privacy and Your Student Aid Records

If you have applied for federal student aid or have received a federal student loan, we are authorized to maintain a record of all transactions related to your application or loan.

Review the System of Records notices, which list the authorized disclosures and the safeguards for our systems under the Privacy Act of 1974, as amended. The systems that apply specifically to loans that you receive under the Federal Direct Loan Program are #18-11-05, called Title IV Program Files, and #18-11-06, called National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS®).

The fact that you have completed an electronic Master Promissory Note (MPN), Direct PLUS Loan Request, or entrance counseling will be communicated to the school for which you are borrowing the money. The privacy of financial aid records (and admission, enrollment, and other records) kept by an educational institution is protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Read the FERPA regulations.

INTRODUCTION TO PRIVACY IMPACT ASSESSMENT

Section 208 of the E-Government Act of 2002 (P.L.107-347) requires us to complete a Privacy Impact Assessment for each new system that collects information from the public through the Internet.

During the Definition Phase of the Federal Student Aid (FSA) Solution Lifecycle, the System Security Officer must make sure that the team completes the Privacy Impact Assessment Questionnaire, must have it reviewed by the Chief Information Officer or equivalent official, and must file the completed form in the system's Security Notebook as part of the system's documentation. This Privacy Impact Assessment must also be made publicly available.

Privacy Impact Assessment Questionnaire
System Name: Common Origination and Disbursement(COD)
System Owner: William Leith
System Manager: Nancy Hoover
System Security Officer: Don Dorsey
Privacy Impact Assessment Questionnaire Author: Don Dorsey
Date: 1/22/2008

Officials and organizational components involved in the analysis and review of the Privacy Impact Assessment included the following: Department of Education Office of the Chief Information Officer, FSA CIO Computer Security Officer, and COD management, including the System Security Officer.

What information will be collected for the system (e.g., name, Social Security number, annual income, etc.)?

  • The COD system receives, processes, and stores Privacy Act related data, such as name, Social Security number, current address, date of birth, place of birth, telephone numbers, and dollar amounts.
  • The general public does not have access to COD.

Why is this information being collected?

  • The information is provided by the student applicants and the schools participating in the Title IV federal student aid programs to enable our administration of the federal Title IV grants and loans. The Title IV loans and grants are used by eligible students to attend participating schools.

How will FSA use this information?

  • FSA/COD uses this student-level detail to book loans, to account for awarded grants, and to enable the Department of Education to reconcile school cash drawdowns from the U.S. Treasury to individual student disbursements.
  • This information also is used to ensure the respective schools receive the appropriate amount of dollars during the respective time periods.

Will this information be shared with any other agency? If so, with which agency or agencies?

  • Not routinely. (This information can be made available for a civil or criminal law enforcement activity that is authorized by law, upon a written request by the agency).

Describe the notice or opportunities for consent that would be or are provided to individuals about what information is collected and how that information is shared with other organizations (e.g., posted privacy notice).

  • Extensive Privacy Act notices for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form are posted on this page. The basis for the data sent to COD by colleges is the FAFSA® form, which is filled out by student applicants first. The FAFSA® form is an OMB-approved data collection instrument (OMB #1845-0001).

How will the information be secured?

  • All information is protected by a secure FSA ID or password and is monitored by automated and manual controls.
  • COD is developed and maintained under a contract with Accenture and is housed within a secure facility run under a subcontract with TSYS Inc., one of the largest credit card processors in the world.
  • Interfacing U.S. Department of Education systems are operated for the most part within FSA's Virtual Data Center (VDC), located in Plano, TX, which provides the respective security controls. The COD data is encrypted as it moves between COD system interfaces.
  • System administrators outside of the VDC provide comparable security controls to protect the system and the information contained therein.

Is a system of records being created or updated with the collection of this information? (A system of record is created when information can be retrieved from the system by the name of the individual or an identifying number, symbol, or other identifying particular assigned to an individual. Also, in responding to this question, a helpful reference may be to the system's System of Record organization step, completed in the Definition phase of the Solution Lifecycle process.)

  • A system of records notification has been submitted to update the previous system of record notification for the TEACH Program.

Security Controls

In accordance with the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA), StudentAid.gov must receive a signed Authority to Operate (ATO) from a designated senior Federal Student Aid official. The ATO process includes a rigorous assessment of security controls, a plan of action and milestones to remediate any identified deficiencies, and a continuous monitoring program to address threats in real time. StudentAid.gov received its initial ATO on July 12, 2012, and continues to maintain this ATO in accordance with federal security requirements.

FISMA controls implemented by StudentAid.gov comprise a combination of management, operational, and technical controls, and include the following control families: access control, awareness and training, audit and accountability, security assessment and authorization, configuration management, contingency planning, identification and authentication, incident response, maintenance, media protection, physical and environmental protection, planning, personnel security, risk assessment, system and services acquisition, system and communications protection, system and information integrity, and program management.

For site security purposes and to make sure this service remains available to all users, this government computer system employs software programs to monitor network traffic to identify unauthorized attempts to upload or change information or otherwise cause damage. These programs collect no personally identifiable information, but they do collect information that could help us identify someone attempting to tamper with this website. Except for authorized law enforcement investigations, we make no other attempts to identify individual users or their usage habits. We use raw monitoring data logs only for determining trends in usage patterns and in diagnosing system problems. Unauthorized attempts to upload or change information on this site are strictly prohibited and may be punishable under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 and the National Information Infrastructure Protection Act. Server logs are scheduled for regular destruction in accordance with the National Archives and Records Administration General Schedule 20.

Your FAFSA data is protected by encryption. Encryption uses a mathematical formula to scramble your data into a format that is unreadable by anyone who might intercept it. If you are using a domestic browser, and the browser is configured correctly, encryption is done automatically when you connect to the online FAFSA form.

FAFSA®Privacy Act Statement

Authority: Sections 483 and 484 of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, give us the authority to ask these questions, and to collect Social Security numbers (SSN), from both you and your parents.

Purpose: We use the information provided on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form to determine if you are eligible to receive federal student aid and the amount that you are eligible to receive. Your SSN is used to verify your identity and retrieve your records. We may request your SSN again for these purposes. State and institutional student financial aid programs also may use the information provided on your FAFSA form to determine if you are eligible to receive state and institutional aid and the financial need that you have for such aid.

Routine Uses: The information you provide will not be disclosed outside of the U.S. Department of Education (ED), except with your consent, and as otherwise allowed by the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. 552a, pursuant to the routine uses identified in the Federal Student Aid Application File System of Records Notice. A routine use is a disclosure without your consent. We may disclose your information to third parties under a routine use published in the notice linked above. Significant routine use disclosures are as follows:

  • Under the published routine uses, we may disclose the information to private firms that assist ED in administering the federal student aid programs. However, private firms that contract with us must maintain the safeguards required under the Privacy Act.
  • We will disclose the information provided on your FAFSA form to each college listed on your FAFSA form, the state agency in your state of legal residence, and the state agencies in the states for the colleges listed to determine if you are eligible to receive state and institutional aid, and the financial need you have for such aid.
  • We may also send your information to other federal agencies through computer matching programs to verify your eligibility for federal student financial aid, to perform debt collection under the federal loan programs, and to minimize and prevent waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal student aid programs. Such computer matching programs include matching programs with the Internal Revenue Service, Selective Service System, Social Security Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Department of Homeland Security (DHS). ED also exchanges information with the Department of Justice to enforce Section 5301 of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act.
  • In addition, your name, address, SSN, date of birth, Expected Family Contribution, dependency status, and state of legal residence will be sent to the state agency in your state of legal residence. This disclosure will allow you to apply for state student financial aid without necessarily having to submit an additional application. Your application information also will be sent to the colleges listed on your FAFSA form, or the colleges’ representatives, and to the state agencies in the states of the colleges listed. The status of an application also may be sent to state agencies, local education agencies, and secondary schools having agreements with the U.S. Secretary of Education, for the purposes of documenting FAFSA completion or coordinating student aid and counseling students whose applications may be incomplete or in need of correction..
  • If you request us to do so, we may disclose your information to other federal agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service, to enable you to obtain information from other federal agencies’ records that will assist you in completing the FAFSA form online. However, we will not disclose your information for this purpose without your specific consent.
  • We may send your information to members of the U.S. Congress if you ask them to help with federal student aid questions and to your parents or your spouse if they provided information on your FAFSA form.
  • If information provided on your FAFSA form leads to litigation with the federal government, we may send your information to the Department of Justice, a court, or an adjudicative body, if certain conditions are met. In addition, we may send your information to a foreign, federal, state, or local enforcement agency if the information submitted indicates a violation or potential violation of law, for which that agency has jurisdiction for investigation or prosecution. Finally, we may send your information to a consumer reporting agency if a claim is involved that is determined to be valid and overdue. This information includes identifiers from the record; the amount, status and history of the claim, and the program under which the claim arose.
  • Additionally, DHS may share the information with facility operators, law enforcement, or other government agencies, as necessary, to respond to potential or actual threats to transportation security, or pursuant to its published Privacy Act system of records notice.

 

Disclosure: Providing information, including your SSN, is voluntary; however, if you do not give us all the information we need to process your FAFSA form, your aid may be delayed or denied. If you are applying solely for federal aid, you must answer all of the following questions that apply to you and are requested: 1–9, 14–16, 18, 22–23, 26, 28–29, 32–37, 39–59, 61–68, 70, 73–86, 88–105. If you want to apply for state financial aid, you must answer all the relevant questions.

Paperwork Reduction Act Information for the FAFSA® Form

According to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, no persons are required to respond to a collection of information unless such collection displays a valid OMB control number. The valid OMB control number for this information collection is 1845-0045. Public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 1 minute per response, including time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information. The obligation to respond to this collection is voluntary. If you have comments or concerns regarding the status of your individual submission of this survey, please contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center, P.O. Box 84, Washington, D.C. 20044 directly. Note: Please do not return the completed survey to this address.

Additional Information

For additional information, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Privacy Program web page.