Summary: I am writing to you to ask for your continued support as your financial aid office, business office, and computer processing services work with the Department of Education (the Department) to modernize the delivery of Federal student financial assistance beginning with the 1999-2000 academic year.
I am writing to you to ask for your continued support as your financial aid office, business office, and computer processing services work with the Department of Education (the Department) to modernize the delivery of Federal student financial assistance beginning with the 1999-2000 academic year.
Year 2000 Compliance
First, we particularly want to remind you of the importance of your institution being "year 2000 compliant" with regard to the processing of student financial aid data. Year 2000 compliant means that all of your data systems are capable of properly processing dates that are outside of the 1900-1999 year range and have been tested as such (see "Dear President" Letter GEN-97-12, dated November 1997). Being year 2000 compliant is essential to assure that your students continue to receive the aid for which they are eligible.
Other Modernization Initiatives
In addition to continuing our efforts to ensure that the Federal student financial assistance programs are year 2000 compliant, we are pursuing modernization goals in conjunction with Project EASI (Easy Access for Students and Institutions), a collaboration with the rest of the higher education community to reengineer the national student aid delivery system. Based on this collaboration, the Department is pursuing the following four major modernization initiatives, beginning with the 1999-2000 award year, that directly affect institutional management of the Federal student financial aid programs.
Master Promissory Note
We will be introducing a new Master Promissory Note (MPN) for use as either an annual or multiyear promissory note for student borrowers in the Federal Direct Loan and Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) programs. Each loan program will have its own MPN. Most four-year and graduate or professional institutions, as well as other institutions designated by the Department, will be able to use the note as a multiyear instrument for their students subsequent loans. This initiative, part of the Project EASI vision, will eliminate the need for many students to complete a new promissory note each year.
Recipient Financial Management System (RFMS)
RFMS is the new processing system that all institutions participating in the Federal Pell Grant Program will use to report and request Federal Pell Grant program funds. RFMS is an important step toward implementing Project EASI's goals of delivering student financial assistance program funds based on a common business process and using community developed common data standards. We believe the new system will provide important benefits to students, institutions, and taxpayers.
Redesigned Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
The redesigned paper FAFSA, used by students to apply for Federal, and most other, student aid will be a more user-friendly form. We have reduced the number of pages of instruction from 12 to 4 and the number of questions from 108 to 99. We believe that the new form incorporates major improvements in simplifying and clarifying the application process. We are also continuing to implement comparable improvements in our electronic versions of the FAFSA, including FAFSA on the WEB and Renewal FAFSA on the WEB.
Use of the Internet
The Department is committed to moving the transmission of student aid data from the Title IV Wide Area Network (TIVWAN) to the Internet, not only as part of Project EASI but as part of a government-wide effort to deliver Federal services over the Internet. We expect that this change will positively affect the computer processing services at your institution and save taxpayer dollars. Your financial aid officer has previously received details on the first stages of this transition and will continue to receive updates as progress toward full Internet usage continues.
Finally, we would also like to remind you of the Notice that we published in the Federal Register on September 19, 1997, informing you of the technical specifications necessary to participate in future designated electronic processes. For example, to be compatible with the Departments student aid systems starting January 1, 1999, institutions must be prepared to use Windows 95, Windows NT, or a newer version of the Windows operating system. To assure that your staff understand, and can implement, our electronic processes and other requirements, we strongly encourage you to send appropriate members to one of our three 1998 Electronic Access Conferences (see http://edeworkshop.walcoff.com) and our training activities.
Thank you for your continued cooperation and support as we work together to create an efficient and cost-effective student aid delivery system that provides first-rate services to our students throughout the Nation.
Diane E. Rogers
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary
Student Financial Assistance Programs