Summary: This letter describes the telecommunications services provided to state and non-state guarantee agencies under the General Electronic Support (GES) system and invites new users to become enrolled in these services. Enrollment will be carried forward each year unless the agency calls to cancel the service.
SUMMARY: This letter describes the telecommunications services provided
to state and non-state guarantee agencies under the General Electronic
Support (GES) system and invites new users to become enrolled in these
services. Enrollment will be carried forward each year unless the agency
calls to cancel the service.
Dear State Agency Director:
A primary purpose of GES services is to provide you with processed data
from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid so that, in combination
with state data, you may award state scholarships and grants and, in
combination with common loan application data , you may guarantee Federal
student loans. The data provided under the electronic services is completely
compatible with that provided on tapes or cartridges under the Applicant
State and non-state guarantee agencies may receive data electronically using
their own mainframe or personal computer and software provided by the
Department of Education (ED). The site responsible for retrieving data from
the network is called a destination point. Your agency may choose to
become its own destination point, or you may choose to have another
entity act as a destination point on your behalf. Either way the
participation agreement is between ED and the state agency. Some state
agencies act as destination points for institutions within their state. If
you wish to act for institutions in this capacity, you must use the
information and forms provided by ED in the 1995-96 Action Letter #5, dated
October 1994 (GEN-94-40).
Please read this letter and its enclosures carefully as it describes the
electronic services available to you, participation issues, computer
requirements, and billing issues. If you are a new user or decide to
change your services, submit the appropriate information on the forms
included with this letter for the services in which your agency wishes to
participate. If after reading this letter you have any questions regarding
enrollment, call GES Customer Service at 319/339-6642.
GES provides three basic services which allow your agency to:
- Retrieve student financial aid application data with Electronic Data
- Access bulletin boards and electronic mail using OPEnet
- See the status of batches of applicant data transmitted via the network
EDE establishes a link between ED's Title IV Central Processing System
(CPS) database and participating state agencies, state guarantee agencies,
and non-state guarantee agencies. Your agency is eligible to electronically
receive processed applicant data. As a participant in EDE you may receive
data for 1) residents (those who indicate your state as their state of legal
residence) and/or 2) non-residents (those who indicate an institution that is
within your state but do not indicate your state as their state of legal
residence). You may also receive data for individual students who do not
meet either of these two conditions as long as you have, and maintain, a
signed form whereby the students release their data to you.
There are three ways for you to obtain processed student data:
- Automatic ISIRs
- Year-to-Date Data Requests
- Federal Data Requests (FDR)
The Electronic SAR, or ESAR is being renamed the Electronic Institutional
Student Information Record (ISIR) for 1995-96. Under Automatic ISIRs
when students submit applications and corrections, electronic versions of
the ISIR from these transactions are automatically transmitted to you on a
daily basis. You may request the data from the CPS in one of two ISIR
formats, full or abbreviated, described as follows:
Full - This ISIR format is 1343 bytes in length and represents complete
information submitted by the student as well as CPS processing results (see
Enclosure A). If a student does not release data to your state, only certain
demographic and processing result fields are provided in the ISIR you
receive. These fields are also listed in Enclosure A.
Abbreviated - This ISIR format is a shortened form of the full format,
designed to provide a subset of key data (see Enclosure B). It is 237 bytes
Year-to-Date Data Requests provide you the ability to receive electronic
ISIRs from any official transaction processed to date by the CPS. For
example, if you become operational to receive ISIR after the CPS cycle
start-up, you may request ISIRs for those students who were processed since
that time. Like automatic ISIR processing, you may request the data in
either the full or abbreviated format. Your data can be returned to you
electronically over the GES network or via first class mail on magnetic
tape or cartridge. Year-to-Date requests will only be handled using Query
through the GES network. You will be billed for both processing and
The Federal Data Request process allows any state or non-state guarantee
agency to electronically request a processed record for any student on the
CPS data base. If the student is not a resident of the state, nor attends an
institution in the state, the student must have signed a loan or state grant
application that releases CPS data to the agency. The signed application
must be maintained by the agency.
To request an applicant's record, you transmit via the GES network the
applicant's Social Security number and first two letters of his or her last
name. The format of a request record is provided in Enclosure C. If data
is on file for the applicant, you may receive either a full or abbreviated
ISIR for the applicant. If data is not on file for the applicant, you
will receive an electronic notice informing you that it is not on file.
The CPS will retain this request for 30 calendar days and either
(1) forward the applicant's ISIR record to you if it is received within the
30-day period or (2) send a record back to you stating that the
application has not been received within the 30-day period.
EDE uses a batch store-and-forward data transmission methodology. As
applications and corrections are processed, the CPS batches and transmits
the applicant data to the GES network where it is stored for destination
point retrieval. For FDRs the destination point sends requests to the
network from which the CPS retrieves them. The requests are processed, as
described above, and the results are sent back to the network, from which
the destination point can retrieve them.
ED provides software at no cost to you to perform these transmission and
retrieval functions. Of course, a destination point is allowed to develop
its own software or purchase third-party software. Two packages are
provided by ED:
- expEDIte - Handles the communications between you and the GES
-EDExpress - Enables you to manage the Title IV applicant data provided by
ED under these services
Compatibility with Applicant Data Tapes and Cartridges
State agencies may independently and simultaneously receive Federal student
aid applicant data under the Applicant Data Service. The record format for
the Applicant Data Service is virtually the same as the full format ISIR.
Refer to Action Letter #8, 1995-96 State Agency Applicant Data Service for
Federal Title IV Student Aid Programs, dated December 1994, for the
applicant data tape and cartridge record description.
EDE offers a faster availability of data than is possible using the Applicant
Data Service. Although we see electronic data transmission as the delivery
medium of choice, ED offers the two alternatives. You may find that using a
combination of the EDE and Applicant Data tape and cartridge services
provides optimal benefits.
Changes for 1995-1996
Changes to the system and software for 1995-1996 are minor and address
requests from the financial aid community. These changes include
DOS-based mouse support for EDExpress and the ability to import
abbreviated ISIRs into EDExpress. The GES network itself will be
undergoing change during the 1995-96 award year. The contract which
provides the GES telecommunications network and support services is
currently under re-competition. We expect that the new network contract,
titled Title IV Wide Area Network, will be awarded in early 1995 and will go
into operation during the spring of 1995. Current data transmission and
on-line services will continue under the new contract. However, there will
likely be some modifications to the fee schedule that is presented in
Enclosure D. We will keep you informed about how the new Title IV WAN
network will affect your processing operations. It is important to
remember, however, that the current GES network will continue to support
the start-up of the 1995-96 processing activities and will make every
effort not to disrupt continuing services with the switch in contracts.
The remaining two GES services are:
OPEnet is a menu driven system that allows access to a wealth of ED
information directly from a personal computer or mainframe terminal.
OPEnet includes electronic bulletin boards that contain Federal
regulations, Dear Colleague letters, policy directives, and information about
special initiatives. Additionally, using electronic mail, users may send
messages to other OPEnet subscribers, including ED, the GES Contractor,
and other destination points.
Query allows on-line access to GES users who have a personal computer,
modem, and telecommunications software. Information maintained by GES
-Year-to-Date Data Request. Participants may request Year-to-Date data
on-line using Query. Instructions for submitting a request are provided
in the EDExpress User's Guide.
-Batch Status. Destination points that transmit EDE data may check the
status of their batches in the GES. They are apprised of time of receipts,
number of characters, transmission content and processing cycle, and date
and time data are retrieved or archived.
-Billing. Users may receive an on-line summary of monthly or Year-to-Date
Refer to the GES Fee Schedule (Enclosure D) for cost information on EDE,
OPEnet and Query services.
PARTICIPATING IN GES
All state and non-state guarantee agencies are eligible to use EDE, OPEnet,
and Query. Non-state guarantee agencies are limited under EDE to the FDR
service. New EDE users may enroll in EDE for the 1994-95 and/or the
1995-96 processing cycles. To participate in GES services each new EDE
state agency must:
1) Complete and sign a Letter of Application (Enclosure E) indicating the
services desired, the year these services are to begin, and agreeing to share
the cost of the services provided by GES. Once submitted, the destination
point's primary contact listed on the Letter of Application will receive
EDExpress and expEDIte software along with the GES, EDExpress, EDE
Technical Reference, Direct Loan Technical Reference and Direct Loan
User's Guides (5 volumes). They will be mailed to you via certified first
class mail. Those wishing to enroll in OPEnet must check the item labeled
OPEnet on the Letter of Application. After receiving this form, the GES
contractor will mail you an OPEnet User's Guide.
2) Complete and submit a signed Electronic Data Exchange Participation
Agreement (Enclosure F). This agreement describes how your agency must
protect and may use the processed FAFSA data supplied by ED.
3) Read the User's Guide
4) Install the software
5) Complete the certification testing
Current participants who do not wish to add or change services, should not
submit any new forms. In December, all current GES participants will receive
software changes for 1995-96, together with a new multi-volume set of
User's Guides. Service to current participants will continue automatically
into the 1995-96 processing cycle. Unlike prior years, you do not need to
place a telephone call to go into operation for the new year. If you
receive 1994-95 Electronic SARs, you will automatically begin receiving
1995-96 Electronic ISIRs when the system goes into production in
If you do not want your institution to begin receiving 1995-96 Electronic
ISIRs when the system goes into production for 1995-96, call NCS User
Services at 800/553-2159. If you do not call, you must be ready to receive
transmission when the system goes into production. Data not retrieved will
be archived after residing on the network for 27 days.
Current participants who want to add or change services for 1995-96 must
submit a new Letter of Application.
Send all enrollment materials to GES Customer Service, P.O. Box 30, Iowa
City, IA 52244. Address your questions regarding enrollment to GES
Customer Service at 319/339-6642.
The requirements differ depending on whether you use a personal computer
or mainframe to access the network. Refer to Enclosure G for a description
of the requirement for each. Note that the minimum PC hardware
configuration has changed to require a 486DX2 microcomputer processor.
Most PC communication packages will connect you to the network and allow
you to view OPEnet bulletin boards, transmit messages to other users, and
view Query screens. However, in order to transfer data from an OPEnet
bulletin board to you PC, or vice versa, you will need a communications
package that supports the IND$FILE protocol. One package which
supports this protocol, GESPCS, may be purchased from the GES
contractor. Contact GES Customer Service at 319/339-6642 for more
information about how this software works or about ordering GESPCS.
GES participants are billed for services provided within each monthly billing
period. Three copies of each destination point's invoice are sent to the
billing address within 10 working days after the end of each month. The
invoices contain charges for all services rendered for the previous month.
These services are listed on the 1995 GES Fee Schedule (Enclosure D).
Enclosure D also contains a table identifying the costs that ED assumes and
those that state agencies are responsible for paying. In addition, ED pays
for certification testing transmissions and supplies the first copy of the
User's Guide and software at no cost to participants.
Participants are billed for year-to-date data requests and transmission
charges if the data is delivered over the GES network. The earlier
participants begin downloading ISIRs in the processing cycle, the fewer
year-to-date requests they will need to make. Down loading data during
non-prime time hours (7 p.m. - 7 a.m. Central Time) ensures considerable
We are pleased to offer these services to help make your job and the Title IV
aid delivery process easier. We look forward to welcoming you as a new
participant and continuing to serve our current participant.
Deputy Assistant Secretary for
Student Financial Assistance
Enclosure A: Full ISIR Format & List of Fields in Non-Release Records (23
Enclosure B: Abbreviated ISIR Format (5 pages)**
Enclosure C: FDR Request Record Format (6 pages)**
Enclosure D: Fee Schedule and Definition of Terms (5 pages)**
Enclosure E: Letter of Application (2 pages)**
Enclosure F: Electronic Data Exchange Participation Agreement (3 pages)**
Enclosure G: Computer Requirements (2 pages) **