Gender on the FAFSA and Selective Service Registration

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By Mark Kantrowitz

September 23, 2020

The gender question on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) triggers the Selective Service registration requirements. Male students who fail to register with Selective Service can lose eligibility for federal student aid. The gender question does not provide any accommodation for non-binary gender choices. 

Consequences of a Failure to Register with Selective Service

If a student was born male, the student must register with Selective Service between ages 18 and 25, inclusive, to be eligible for federal and state student financial aid for college. 

Some colleges and universities have similar requirements for institutional financial aid funds. 

How to Register with Selective Service

There is a “register me” option on the FAFSA that male students can use to register with Selective Service if they haven’t already registered. 

Male students can also register with Selective Service at the Selective Service System web site, sss.gov, or by filling out a Selective Service postcard at any U.S. post office.  

How to Check Registration Status

Students can check their Selective Service registration status at the sss.gov web site or by calling 1-888-655-1825 or 1-847-688-6888. 

What If a Male Student Did Not Register for Selective Service?

If a male student did not register with Selective Service and is now age 26 or older, they will lose eligibility for federal student aid if they cannot prove that the failure to register was not knowing and willful. 

Evidence that the failure to register was not knowing and willful can include of any of the following circumstances.

  • Proof that the student did register
  • Proof that the student served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces (e.g., a copy of the student’s DD-214)
  • Proof that the student attended one of the U.S. military service academies (United States Military Academy (USMA), United States Naval Academy (USNA), United States Air Force Academy (USAFA))
  • Proof that the student was hospitalized continuously from age 18 to 25
  • Proof that the student was incarcerated continuously from age 18 to 25 
  • Proof that the student lived abroad continuously from age 18 to 25 

Male students who did not register and are age 26 or older should obtain a status information letter from the Selective Service. They should submit this letter to the college’s financial aid administrator, who will determine whether the failure to register was not knowing and willful. 

Treatment of Transgender Students on the FAFSA

The FAFSA’s gender question provides a binary set of answer choices – male or female – with no accommodations for transgender students. How should transgender students answer the gender question on the FAFSA?

The answer to the gender question on the FAFSA is based on the student’s original gender at birth, as listed on their original birth certificate, even if it has subsequently changed.

Transgender students who were born female and who are now male are not required to register with Selective Service. However, some will register just to avoid potential bureaucratic problems and data match conflicts. Since the FAFSA’s “register me” option will not be shown to students who answer the gender question as female, transgender students who are now male must use one of the other methods of Selective Service registration.

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