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 Data Service.
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 using Query
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 in length.
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 transmission costs.
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
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 network
- 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
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
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 Query includes:
- 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 charges.
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 mid-January 1995.
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
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 request they will need to make. Downloading data
during non-prime time hours (7 p.m. - 7 a.m. Central Time) ensures
considerable cost savings.
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
Deputy Assistant Secretary for
Student Financial Assistance
Enclosure A: Full ISIR Format & List of Fields in Non-Release
Records (23 pages)
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
Enclosure G: Computer Requirements (2 pages)
1995-96 GES Electronic Services for State Agencies
Dear Colleague Letter SG-95-1, 95-G-273 describes the Applicant
Data Service for Federal Title IV Student Aid Programs. With this
service the Department of Education makes applicant data from the
Federal Student Aid Central Processing System available to
institutions free of charge. Enclosure A to this letter provides a
complete description of the Full ISIR Record Layout.
The purpose of this errata is to clarify the information given in
Enclosure A. The field STI: Student's Total Income, was omitted.
Attached to this errata are undates to page A-22 of Enclosure A that
reflect the above described clarifications. Please insert this update