Maintained for Historical Purposes

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1997-98 student aid delivery system

PublicationDate: 11/15/96
Summary: 1997-98 student aid delivery system
Author: ODAS - Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary - SFA


November 15, 1996

Dear Colleagues:

This is the third of a series of communications to members of the
financial aid community on the 1997-98 student aid delivery system.

At this time, I can report to you that we have distributed
approximately 12.4 million 1997-98 FAFSAs: 3.4 million to high
schools, and 8.1 million to postsecondary schools. We expect to
reach the 16 million mark by Monday, 11/18, and we anticipate
completing our initial distribution to postsecondary schools by next
week. Some delays in the delivery of FAFSAs from the printer
resulted in this slippage of a week or more from our earlier estimates
of when we would complete our initial distribution.

To illustrate the size of this job, it may interest you to know that it
takes about 4.3 million pounds of paper to print the 1997-98
FAFSAs, and 82 fully loaded tractor-trailers to deliver them to our
warehouse. As you can see, the more we use FAFSA Express, the
more trees we can save.

For your information, I have attached below the text of a letter we
mailed in October to high school counselors on the 1997-98 Free
Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Thank you for your continuing cooperation and assistance in our
common goal of providing access to student financial assistance and
postsecondary education.

Respectfully submitted,

Elizabeth M. Hicks
Deputy Assistant Secretary
Student Financial Assistance


***TEXT OF LETTER TO HIGH SCHOOL COUNSELORS***

Dear Colleague:

As we approach the time of year when both counselors and seniors
begin focusing their attention on the student aid application process,
I would like to thank you for your patience and support during the
delays we experienced in processing federal student aid applications
last March and April. I also want to report to you the improvements
we have made in the student aid application process for the
upcoming (1997-98) academic year. These improvements include
improved distribution procedures for the 1997-98 Free Application
for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the establishment of additional
backup forms processing capacities, if needed. We are also placing
increased emphasis on applying electronically, which reduces the
turnaround time for a student's application from weeks to days, and
we have increased our efforts to obtain customer feedback. Many of
the improvements we have made for the 1997-98 year are the direct
result of thoughtful and valuable input we received from you. The
improvements include:

Early printing and distribution of forms. This year, we have been
able to print and distribute the FAFSA at least one month earlier than
we did last year. We began mailing forms to high schools on
October 15, and we expect to complete our high school distribution
by late October.

Automatic delivery of forms. As a result of comments received from
a variety of sources, including a focus group we convened on May
15 that had high school representation, we made a significant change
in our high school distribution process for FAFSAs. This year, high
schools will automatically receive the same quantity of FAFSAs they
received last year. In mid-September, we sent an order letter to high
schools explaining this, and also giving instructions on how to use
our automated order system to increase or decrease your FAFSA
shipment, should you want to do so. In addition--and again as a
result of focus group comments--we are mailing to high schools first.
When we complete the high school distribution, we will begin our
distribution to postsecondary schools.

Return postcard on FAFSA. We have added a postcard to the new
FAFSA. A student can include the postcard in the envelope with the
completed form, and the processor will date-stamp it and return it.
Students will now be assured that their application was received, and
will know the date it was received.

Backup processing capacity. To assure that we have more than
adequate processing capacity, National Computer Systems, Inc. is
developing and will have available by January a major application
processing site, should additional processing facilities become
necessary.

User-friendly electronic application software. This past winter and
spring, many high school counselors were able to assist students by
arranging access to school computers with modems so that students
could apply electronically using the Department's FAFSA Express
software. FAFSA Express cuts the turnaround time for a student's
application from weeks to days.

This year, applying electronically will be even easier. We have
improved the 1997-98 version of our FAFSA Express software, so
that it is more user- friendly. Chief among the improvements is the
addition of a "save-to-diskette" function that was made as a result of
user comments and focus group comments. We will be distributing
promotional materials for FAFSA Express to schools in December,
and in January this software will be available for downloading from
the Department's world wide web site
(http://www.ed.gov/offices/OPE/express.html).

School codes on web. We have added the Department's web site
address to the FAFSA so that counselors, students, and parents can
more readily access our listing of school codes (these are the codes
that a student enters in the last section of the FAFSA, to indicate
which schools should receive the data from the application). We will,
of course, continue to print and distribute (in November) the school
codes in booklet form. We will distribute these booklets to high
schools, libraries, and postsecondary schools.

Improved SAR design. We have made improvements to the 1997-98
Student Aid Report (SAR) that will make it more user-friendly. The
design is cleaner, and all the answer fields on the SAR are similar to
those on the FAFSA.

Regular focus groups. Every other month, we will convene focus
groups consisting of financial aid administrators, counselors, and
students to provide us with customer feedback on all issues related to
the delivery of federal student aid. We have already conducted the
first group, and we will convene the second group in December.

Thank you for your partnership in ensuring student access to
financial aid and postsecondary education.

Sincerely,


Elizabeth M. Hicks
Deputy Assistant Secretary
Student Financial Assistance

Last Modified: 08/16/1999