The mistake primarily stems from an online form change to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, made Jan. 1 that expanded the field to enter income.
Many applicants unnecessarily entered a decimal point and cents that the system ignored. The error led to students being declared eligible for aid when they are not — and ineligible when they are.
The Education Department says fewer than 200,000 applicants have been declared eligible when they are not. Officials say data checks to try to identify those students are underway, and the form has been changed.