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Letter from Secretary Riley

PublicationDate: 4/26/96
Summary: Letter from Secretary Riley
Author: CSB - SFA Customer Support Branch

April 26, 1996

Dear President:

I am writing to update you on the status of the 1996-97 Free
Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) processing and thank
you for your efforts to resolve the processing delay. Since I
wrote to you eight weeks ago, under the leadership of Deputy
Assistant Secretary Elizabeth Hicks, we were able to identify and
solve technical problems, develop and implement supplemental
procedures for processing, and process over four million original
and renewal paper applications. Our private contractors have
returned to their normal turnaround cycle; and with the exception
of some earlier applications that require special handling, the
only applications remaining are those received within the past
two weeks of April.

The past few months have been difficult, and we appreciate the
cooperation and patience of all our customers, including
postsecondary institutions, state scholarship offices,
guarantors, high schools, and students. I would like to
acknowledge postsecondary institutions, in particular, for their
vital support during the processing delay. We have received many
reports of the extraordinary measures taken by admissions
officers and financial aid administrators, such as performing
hand calculations or devising other school-based strategies to
aid your students.

Even though we are current with our processing, we recognize that
the earlier delays will most likely require your financial aid
staff to perform their part of the application and awarding
process in a shorter period of time and under greater pressure
than usual. On behalf of the Department, I would like to thank
you and your admissions and financial aid staff for your
continued efforts.

We understand that the higher education community is concerned
that they might experience delays in the next major phase of the
1996-97 FAFSA processing cycle -- corrections. We have made
arrangements for additional capacity to deal with the high volume
of application corrections we expect to receive over a brief
period of time. Daily status reports have been available on our
Bulletin Board Service (BBS) since March 1, and will continue to
be posted until the corrections phase is completed. We intend to
maintain a continual dialogue with schools to monitor this
process until corrections have been resolved to the satisfaction
of those affected.

We are implementing a thorough analysis of 1996-97 processing,
and we are developing the necessary corrective actions to assure
a prompt and efficient processing cycle in 1997-98. A series of
focus groups with the higher education community has been
convened to give our customers a voice in this process.

In closing, the Department of Education is committed to the
highest standards of customer service, and I welcome your
feedback as we strive toward continuous improvement.

Yours sincerely,

Richard W. Riley

Last Modified: 08/16/1999