TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Misinformation spread online amid the United States’ growing tensions with the Middle East has led to panic among college students who have applied for federal student aid.
Fear started to spread late last week after the U.S. Department of Defense announced an airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Iran quickly responded, vowing “harsh retaliation.”
Hashtags like #WorldWarIII started trending on Twitter just hours after the U.S. airstrike. The trending topics included hundreds of tweets and memes suggesting a draft would take place specifically calling on college students who had completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.
The root of those rumors is the fact that one of the requirements to receive federal student aid through FAFSA is registering with Selective Service, or the draft.
The concerns over the draft’s ties to FAFSA even caused the Selective Service System’s website to crash Friday, according to a tweet.
“Due to the spread of misinformation, our website is experiencing high traffic volumes at this time,” the tweet said.
The agency also issued a tweet assuring people that, “the Selective Service System is conducting business as usual.”
“In the event that a national emergency necessitates a draft, Congress and the President would need to pass official legislation to authorize a draft,” the tweet said.
FAFSA and Selective Service
Question 22 on the FAFSA asks male applicants between the ages of 18 to 25 to register for Selective Service. The Federal Student Aid Handbook states, “any male required to register with Selective Service at any time must have done so to receive federal student aid.”
The requirement applies to U.S. citizens and non-citizens, but only includes men. Women are not included in the requirement.
The Federal Student Aid Handbook lists several exemptions for registration, including active duty service members, noncitizens who entered the U.S. after they turned 26 and transgender males who were assigned the sex of female at birth.
The Selective Service System has a chart on its website showing who must register and who doesn’t need to.
Why you shouldn’t worry
As the Federal Student Aid office pointed out on Twitter, the United States military has been all-volunteer since 1973. In order for that to change, Congress and the president would need to pass a new law to authorize a draft.
The office also noted that there is “no priority order for Selective Service based on the FAFSA form.” If a draft were to happen, the Selective Service System would use a random lottery number and year of birth.
The Selective Service System re-iterates that on its website, stating that registering for the Selective Service does not mean you’re automatically inducted into the military.
“In a crisis requiring a draft, men would be called in a sequence determined by random lottery number and year of birth,” the website states. “Then, they would be examined for mental, physical, and moral fitness by the military before being deferred or exempted from military service or inducted into the Armed Forces.”
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