Summary: 1997-98 Verification Selection & Apparent Data
Author: OPE - Office of the Assistant Secretary for OPE
TO: Financial Aid Community
FROM: Jeanne B. Saunders
Director, Application & Pell Processing Systems Division
SUBJECT: 1997-98 Verification Selection & Apparent Data Entry Errors
In response to concerns from the financial aid community, ED's contractor performed
an analysis of our 1997-98 verification selection criteria. Last week, ED was notified
that an error was found. We immediately corrected an error in the tables used by the
Central Processing System (CPS) to select individuals for verification from the
general category of "error-prone" applications. This error did not increase the
percentage of students selected for verification and all applications selected were in
the "error-prone" category. This problem resulted in our selecting an imbalance of
Pell eligible and Pell-ineligible applications.
If applicants submit corrections to their 1997-98 FAFSA data, some may be selected
for verification on these later transactions. However, the overall national average of
applicants chosen for verification will remain at the targeted rate of 30%.
The Department is aware of some financial aid administrators' belief that data entry
errors for the 1997-98 processing cycle are higher this year than in previous years. At
present, the number of corrections processed does not appear to be inconsistent with
numbers from earlier years at comparable periods. Although we have moved to the use
of Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR), which replaces some of the manual key
entry of data, the volume of errors found under both processes is similar. However,
under the ICR process, ones and "L's," and zero's and "O's" are sometimes read
interchangeably. In addition, if a student has written his last name such as "Mullins,"
even though the student may have written the second letter like a "v," an operator would
probably interpret the last name correctly. ICR, however, captures what it reads and we
may see "Mvllins," rather than "Mullins." We are working with our contractors to
tighten our specifications and resolve the more common errors found in order to
improve our error rates.
To ensure accurate data, we place stringent requirements on our contractors.
Specifically, we require the MDEs to key or capture the data from each application or
correction twice. The data is compared and any fields which do not match are resolved
by a third manual review of the data. Prior to transmission of the data to the CPS, an
additional manual quality control step is performed based on industry standards. A set
number of forms is randomly selected from each batch and the data for each field of
those selected forms are reviewed for accuracy. If one error is found on any field for
any of those randomly-selected forms, the entire batch fails and the entire batch must
be reworked. In addition, 1997-98 is the second year that ED has implemented an
independent review of the data entry process for applications and SAR corrections.
The final analysis of this review will be completed in the near future.
If FAAs or their students find an instance where an apparent data entry error has been
made, you or the student should contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center on
(800) 433-3243. The staff will review the image of the application or the SAR and if
an error is found, will report that error to the Department and we will report the error
to the proper MDE for immediate corrective action.