Summary: 1996-97 FAFSA Processing - Announcement #5
Author: ODAS - Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary - SFA
Announcement #5, March 7, 1996
1996-97 FEDERAL STUDENT AID APPLICATION PROCESSING
Issue: EDExpress vs. FAFSA Express
In keeping with our commitment to keep you informed about the status of application
processing for the 1996-97 award year, we are providing this daily announcement.
This announcement is number five in the series.
Because of the delay that the U.S. Department of Education has been experiencing with the
processing of paper Free Applications for Federal Student Aid (FAFSAs) and Renewal FAFSAs,
the Department has been encouraging schools to have students apply for aid via the electronic
application process. For those of you unfamiliar with the electronic process, there are two ways
that a student may apply for student aid via computer: EDExpress or FAFSA Express.
EDExpress is a sophisticated software application that schools can use to enter and send student
application data directly to the Central Processing System (CPS), receive Institutional Student
Information Records (ISIRs), package student aid, and originate Federal Direct Student Loans (if
the school is a Direct Loan participant). EDExpress is capable of handling original FAFSA
applications, Renewal FAFSAs, and history (SAR/ISIR) corrections. The software is flexible
enough to allow students to enter their own original application data or can be limited to allow
entry by financial aid office staff only. It can be used to enter data for any and all students
(undergraduates and graduates, new or returning students) and has the ability to list six institution
choices (the same as the paper application allows). EDExpress comes in both DOS and
Windows versions and can be used on a local area network. To date, there are approximately
3,700 electronic destination points.
The primary drawbacks that users have encountered with EDExpress are: learning how to use the
new system, the application setup, and the requirement to keep paper applications on file at the
institution. Once set up properly, EDExpress is an inexpensive way to provide eligibility data to
FAAs within a short time frame. Also, application data sent via EDExpress usually contains
fewer errors than paper applications since the computer software checks and edits the entered
data before allowing it to be sent to the CPS.
We want to encourage institutions to use EDExpress to submit applicant data directly to the CPS.
Note that there are no per-transaction costs to schools for using the application features of
EDExpress. Please see Action Letter #4 (GEN-95-53, November 1995) for more information
about signing up for EDExpress and the Title IV WAN systems. Institutions may also contact
Title IV WAN Customer Support at 1-800-615-1189 (Monday-Friday from 8am - 11pm
B. FAFSA Express
FAFSA Express is a student-based software package that enables students to apply for their aid
electronically. FAFSA Express is a Windows-based application that allows students to apply
from home, school, or their local library. Although the software is not designed for use on a
LAN, students can apply for aid using any other personal computer equipped with a modem.
The software provides some of the same benefits that EDExpress affords schools in that it allows
students to select six institutions as recipients of their financial aid data, provides the capability
to send data directly to the CPS, and enables schools to receive processed applicant data within a
shorter amount of time than in the paper application process. Please note that FAFSA Express
can be used for original applications only and may not be used for processing history corrections.
Since no paper application is involved when students use FAFSA Express, the Department had to
institute a process by which the students' signatures are collected. Thus, students who use
FAFSA Express will need to print out a signature page from the software, sign the certification
statements, and send the hard copy signature page to one of the Federal processors. Under
normal circumstances, the electronic record containing the student application data sent from
FAFSA Express is held by the CPS for 21 days. If the signature page comes in to the CPS
within 21 days of receiving the electronic FAFSA Express record, the student's record is
processed. If no signature page is received by the CPS after the 21-day "hold" period, the
student's record will be processed and will receive a Reject 16 on the SAR/ISIR. The student's
eligibility will not be calculated further until the student signs the SAR/ISIR and the signature is
processed by the CPS.
For 1996-97, 1,700 FAFSA Express applications have already been filed by students. Records
for these students are being held until history correction start-up, which is scheduled to take place
on Friday, March 15, 1996. While the Multiple Data Entry (MDE) contractors have already
received approximately 17,000 history corrections to be processed, signature page corrections
will be processed before all other history corrections.
Users have indicated that FAFSA Express has a few limitations. First, if an institution that a
student wants to select is not included in the software's database of schools, the student may not
designate that school to be recipient of the student's data. The Department has taken measures to
rectify this problem by trying to keep the institution database that is installed with the software
updated regularly. New versions of the software containing new institution names and Title IV
identification numbers are being loaded to the World Wide Web and will be distributed upon
request from FAFSA Express Customer Service. The Department will also be distributing a
copy of the updated FAFSA Express software to more than 21,000 high schools across the
country and to more than 600 TRIO programs at postsecondary institutions.
Second, students may not save their applicant data to a diskette or to the computer's hard drive.
While this may appear inconvenient to the student, the FAFSA information is protected by the
Privacy Act. The Department feels strongly that the inconvenience of not being able to save
student data is far outweighed by the need to protect students' privacy.
We recommend that schools load the FAFSA Express software and encourage their their students
to use this efficient and error minimizing method of applying for student aid. FAFSA Express
can be obtained by calling FAFSA Express Customer Support (1-800-801-0576) to request the
installation diskettes or by downloading the software directly from the World Wide Web
(http://www.ed.gov/offices/OPE/index.html). Institutions may also download the software from
the SFA BBS (if you are not already a user of the SFA BBS, please contact Customer Support at
1-800-433-7327). Please note that Department of Education software is not copyrighted, so
institutions may feel comfortable downloading the software and providing students with as many
copies as they want.