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Winter 2019

Say Hello to Our New President & CEO

Our Center for College Planning (CCP) counselors are pleased to welcome Christiana Thornton, The NHHEAF Network Organizations’ fourth President & Chief Executive Officer. Christiana joined the Organizations Wednesday, October 3rd, replacing René A. Drouin who is retiring from the Organizations at the end of February 2019 after 40 years of service.

Deeply committed to our mission of “helping New Hampshire families plan and pay for college,” Christiana has spent time learning about the CCP’s work and our relationships with students, families, and school counselors. She has begun learning about the programs and services we currently offer and shares our excitement in further developing our work across the state.


Christiana Thornton with our retiring President & CEO Rene A. Drouin.

In her short time with us, Christiana has attended our “I Am College Bound/I Applied” program kick‑off for 2018 at Merrimack Valley High School in November, met families at our Concord campus as they arrive to file FAFSAs, and has earned her grey COLLEGE hoodie! She will also be with us as we celebrate our 20th Annual Destination College at Plymouth State University on March 30th. We look forward to introducing you to Christiana soon!


Verification “Melt” ‑ What Is It and How Can You Help?

In October 2018, Inside Higher Ed published the article “Income Verification for Federal Aid Hinders Low-Income Students.” In this article, reporter Ashley A. Smith presents, “a growing number of colleges are finding more low‑income students are being flagged by the Department of Education during the bureaucratic process of verifying income eligibility for federal aid, and that those students are not completing the application process as a result. College administrators are concerned that much‑needed aid is being left on the table by frustrated and discouraged students who've given up on the cumbersome process of applying for financial aid. Financial aid experts call this retreat “verification melt,” and many college administrators fear their neediest students may ruin their chances of earning college degrees and improving their long‑term economic prospects.”

In fact, it is estimated by The National College Access Network that “50 percent of low‑income students are selected each year for verification and 22 percent of them, or 90,000, will give up on applying for financial aid.” Many of these students are afraid they have done something wrong or have trouble understanding the steps involved and never complete the process, losing out on the financial assistance they need for postsecondary education.

What You Need to Know About Verification.

What is it? According to Smith, “The Department of Education sets out to verify the eligibility of about 30 percent of all federal aid applicants during each application cycle for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly referred to as FAFSA.” In basic terms, this means individual colleges are tasked with verifying the information the student and families have provided on the FAFSA.

How do Financial Aid Offices complete the verification process? The college needs to do TWO things to complete the verification process:

  1. Verify the family's Tax information. This can be done one of two ways, either by the family using the Internal Revenue Service's DRT (Data Retrieval Tool) process within the FAFSA or by the family providing a IRS Tax Transcript.
  2. Have the student complete a “Verification Worksheet.”

Once both of these tasks are complete, the college can grant the student access to financial aid. If both of these tasks are not completed, the entire financial aid process can be held up or aid may not be dispersed.

How does verification cause a barrier to low‑income students? Typically, verification requests are sent to the student via email or posted to the college’s portal and many students simply miss this request, delaying the process.

Also, there are many low income families that are not required to file taxes due to their low income status or due to a permanent disability. These families must request a non‑filer tax transcript to prove they did not file taxes. This can be a difficult process for many as in order to get this document, the parent has to have a cell phone in their name, a credit card bill or loan paperwork. Many families do not have any or all of these and therefore, cannot request the non-filer transcript.

Lastly, the Verification Worksheet tends to ask information about who lives in the household. Some students, with family members who are not legal citizens, may feel intimidated about answering this question. For other students, where a parent is living with a boyfriend or girlfriend, with a grandparent or family friend, again, the student may feel confused or intimidated about how to fill out the form. Often not knowing who to go to for help, students either make mistakes that delay the process even more or simply ignore the forms all together and miss out on deserved aid.

What can you do to help?

  1. Talk with students about verification so they know to expect this process, reminding them they did not do anything wrong. Verification is a normal process required by the financial aid office. Encourage students to check all email, snail mail, or information posted to the college portals about verification
  2. Acquaint yourself with a Verification Worksheet to get an idea of what type of information a student may need to provide the college. To see a great sample, look at the University of New Hampshire Verification worksheet for DEPENDENT students and the one for INDEPENDENT students.
  3. If you know you have a student who is low‑income, they have a parent(s) on disability or does not file taxes, you can encourage them to start the request for a non‑filer tax transcript earlier (even starting now) to save time as May 1st approaches. Direct them to IRS.gov or use this link to see all the documentation needed to start the request process.

Late Breaking Update:
U.S. Department of Education (ED) officials announced in early December during Federal Student Aid's Annual Training Conference opening session the Department will revert to accepting signed copies of tax returns to verify tax information, with some caveats. The Department also said aid offices can accept signed statements of non‑filing status rather than an IRS‑issued Verification of Non‑Filing form. The effective date and applicable award years are unclear at this time. The Department is in the process of issuing more precise guidance.


This financial aid season, our CCP counselors have seen an increase in CSS ProfileTM questions from New Hampshire families. One of the most frequent questions we are asked is about the non-custodial parent form.

Question: Since the CSS Profile requires the non-custodial parent to file a CSS Profile, what happens if the non-custodial parent is either not willing to file the form or is not involved in the student’s life. Does the student really need to have the non-custodial form filed?

Answer: According to The College Board, a student cannot simply decide not to file the non-custodial form. If there is a non-custodial parent, then the form needs to be filled out in order for the receiving college to consider the student for institutional aid.

However, if the student feels that they have strong reasons for why the non-custodial parent cannot complete the CSS Profile, then they are allowed to file a CSS Profile Waiver Request for the Noncustodial Parent. Some things that qualify as strong reasons are:

  • Documented abuse situations involving the student and the noncustodial parent
  • Legal orders that limit the noncustodial parent's contact with the student
  • No contact or support ever received from the noncustodial parent

It is important to note that it is still up to the discretion of each college if they will waive the non-custodial form. It is absolutely possible for one school to waive it and another to still require it for their institutional aid decision.

Note: Although the CCP does not help families file the CSS Profile, we do answer basic CSS Profile questions. For more specific or detailed questions, students are encouraged to call the college’s financial aid office or The College Board at 844.202.0524.


“In Questions That Make You Go ‘Hmmm;‛…,” we take a look at a complex college admissions or financial aid question or situation that our CCP Counselors have recently encountered that cause us to take a moment and think about the correct response. We hope you find this segment helpful and if you would like further clarification, we encourage you to please call us at 888.747.2382, ext. 119.

Situation: The student lives with her two moms. The moms are in a domestic partnership but are not legally married. Though together for 20 years, Mom A and Mom B file taxes separately. The student is the biological child of Mom A. Mom B has not legally adopted the student, but is a legal guardian. Mom B is the biological mother of another sibling in the home who is a junior in high school. When the student files the FAFSA, which parent(s) are listed on the form, how many people are considered to be in the student’s household, and how many students will be in college for the upcoming year?

Answer Choices: (only one is correct)

  • A. Since domestic partnerships are recognized by FAFSA, both Mom A and Mom B will file the FAFSA together and simply combine their incomes and assets since they file taxes separately. The student would have a family of four with one in college.
  • B. Since the student's parents are the same sex, the student is considered an independent student and neither Mom A nor Mom B goes on the form. The student would be a family of one with one in college.
  • C. Since FAFSA only recognizes non-married biological or adoptive parents in a domestic partnership, only Mom A needs to go on the form. Mom B is not the biological or adopted parent, therefore does not go on the form. The student would have a family of two with one in college.

The Correct Answer is C. – The reason Mom B is not looked at on FAFSA is because she has not legally adopted the student. The only legal parent (biological or adoptive) is Mom A. Although they are living as a family unit, FAFSA equates Mom A and Mom B as girlfriends living together and FAFSA does not require a student to include a parent’s boyfriend or girlfriend on the FAFSA. The student’s household only includes herself and Mom A (her biological mom) and does not include Mom B or Mom B’s biological child. Therefore, the correct answer is a family of two with one going to college.


Scholarship Alert! Please Share With Your Seniors!

Will you graduate from high school in 2019? Do you have some advice for the Class of 2020 as they begin their college planning? If so, we encourage you to submit a three to five (3 to 5) minute speech for our DC Speech Contest. By submitting a speech about your own path to college and navigating the college admissions process, you could win a $1,000 scholarship and have the opportunity to share your words of wisdom and encouragement with high school juniors and their families at the 20th Annual Destination College event at Plymouth State University on Saturday, March 30!

Applications are due Friday, February 15, 2019. Submit Your Application Today!


Read our 2018 Annual Report here.

Professional Development Opportunities for School Counselors

Each year, our CCP Counselors are pleased to bring numerous training opportunities to school counselors and your school colleagues. We have three remaining professional development opportunities for this academic year and encourage you to register for any or all of these programs. In addition, we are currently working on hosting a few training opportunities during the upcoming summer! CEU certificates are offered for each training.

If you have ideas on professional development topics you would like to see us offer, please send us an email!