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Phase II of the Access America for Students Pilot - Invitation to Participate

PublicationDate: 7/12/99
Summary: Phase II of the Access America for Students Pilot - Invitation to Participate

Dear Partner:

We invite you to consider participation in Phase II of the Access America for Students pilot. Phase II is being implemented for the 2000-2001 school year. The Office of Student Financial Assistance Modernization Blueprint envisions that based on Phase II of Access America for Students, we will make a decision on national implementation of its concepts. Participation in Phase II of the pilot gives you the opportunity to develop and test Access America for Students concepts for use by students and institutions in future years.

What is Access America for Students?

Access America for Students is a plan developed by the National Partnership for Reinventing Government (NPR) in 1997 to bring together multiple Federal agencies to reengineer the way educational benefits and services are delivered to students. This initiative expects to provide all Americans easy and secure electronic access to training and the benefits and services that students need.

The Access America for Students pilot has the following objectives:
· Develop a consolidated virtual student account to integrate the delivery of student services and benefits governmentwide.
· Use existing commercial systems to provide better service to students and institutions at lower cost.
· Implement improved, technologically advanced privacy and security processes.
· Establish standardized record formats and business processes for information technology systems.
· Use digital signatures as part of the delivery of government services and benefits.
· Provide efficient and secure access to information and government services and benefits for students via the Access America for Students gateway web site (

For a more detailed explanation of the objectives and other aspects of the Access America for Students pilot, you can review the Access America for Students draft Strategic Plan on the Web at, as well as browse the site for more information.

What are the benefits of Access America for Students?

Access America for Students provides a number of benefits to students, institutions, and the federal government in Phase II of the pilot. Benefits for students include secure access to consolidated student aid data and a range of other federal services on a 24-hour basis and use of a digital signature to file federal documents electronically.

For institutions, participation assures you of the opportunity to design the process. Other benefits include developing a single point of contact and reduced reporting burden to the federal government. If the pilot proves successful, we expect to use it as a key component in the Title IV student aid delivery system for all schools in future years.

Who should consider participating?

are lookingfor a representative cross-section of 50 or more institutions from all regions of the country to participate, including institutions that:
· Participate in either the Direct Loan or Federal Family Education Loan programs;
· Partner with other financial aid industry entities such as a software vendor, State agency, lender, or guarantee agency;
· Deliver the federal programs with custom mainframe computer systems, custom PC systems, and federal agency-provided software such as the Department of Education's EDEXpress software; and
· Are of various sizes, types, and controls (public or private).

What are the requirements for institutional participation?

We are interested in selecting institutions that have a strong interest in pilot participation and a commitment to testing the Access America for Students concepts that is shared across the institutions' administration, including the financial aid office, business office, and the information technology office. Participation does involve a commitment of staff time and resources, including travel costs. In addition,
interested institutions must meet the following requirements to participate in Phase II ofthe pilot:

· Have a demonstrated capability to administer the student financial aid programs effectively.
· Have the technical capability and resources to use technology to improve services to students and other partners.
· Accept the risks and costs associated with developing new methods of delivering student services and benefits.
· Use the Just-In-Time payment method to receive funding from the Department of Education.
· Pilot the use of electronic identification (digital signatures).
· Participate in all aspects of the pilot involving other government agencies in addition to the Department of Education.

We are enclosing a detailed self-assessment for your use in determining more clearly your institution’s ability and commitment to participate.

What should you do next if you are interested?

We want to know if your institution is interested in participating in Phase II of the Access America for Students pilot or has any questions. Please let us know of your interest and questions and provide us with a contact name and an address and phone number for your institution. Send this information to Access America for Students at the following e-mail address:

How do you apply to be a pilot institution?

We request that you reply to us no later than July 30, 1999, at the following address with a letter signed by your institution’s President stating your commitment:

Greg Woods
Chief Operating Officer
Office of Student Financial Assistance
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue SW
ROB #3, Room 4642
Washington, DC 20202

We anticipate final selection of the Phase II pilot schools by August 30, 1999.

Thank you for your consideration of this invitation to participate in this important initiative. We very much look forward to partnering with the community as we pursue our goals of providing better services to students.


Greg Woods
Access America for Students Steering Committee

Chief Operating Officer
Office of Student Financial Assistance
U.S. Department of Education


Access America for Students – Phase II Pilot
Institutional Self-Assessment

The Access America for Students (AAFS) Pilot Project strongly recommends that your financial aid office, your business office, your information technology office, and other interested offices review the requirements and benefits of the pilot concurrently and reach consensus on whether to participate in this pilot. You may also want to discuss aspects of your participation with any vendors or other aid delivery partners such as lenders and guarantee agencies. A committed and coordinated effort from all the administrative offices of an institution is critical to the success of the pilot.

In addition, we recommend that your offices review the following self-assessment regarding your willingness and capability to participate in the pilot:

Willingness to Participate:

· Willing to devote the necessary staff time and resources to implement the AAFS pilot successfully
· Willing to continue as primary student contact
· Willing to test privacy/security principles
· Willing to test career management tools
· Willing to test overall web site services
· Willing to participate in usability testing of the AAFS web site
· Willing to participate in creating common record formats, business processes, and standard operating procedures for delivering funds and reporting
· Willing to test electronic ID transactions
· Willing to participate in all aspects of the AAFS pilot

Administratively Capable:

· Sufficient expertise and staff
· Sufficient financial resources
· Support fromyour Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program guaranty agencies and lenders (if your institution participates in the FFEL Program)
· Able to create emerging work structures, such as:
· Streamlined accounting interface
· Streamlined funds transfer
· Streamlined MIS reporting
· Synchronized, just-in-time disbursement processes
· Able to support marketing and promotion of new services
· Able to support usability testing of AAFS web site
· Able to help test accounting interface with the Student Account Manager
· Able to help test funds transfer to and from the Student Account Manager
· Able to support testing of vocational rehabilitation benefits processing and delivery using the Student Account Manager (Department of Veterans Affairs)
· Able to support testing of state financial aid for Montgomery GI Bill using the Student Account Manager (Department of Veterans Affairs)
· Able to support testing of the Workforce Investment Act Interface with the Student Account Manager(Department of Labor)
· Able to support testing of career development and management tools (Office of Personnel Management and Department of Labor)

Technically Capable:

· Able to make system changes for Federal programs
· Able to participate in AAFS systems security testing
· Able to use hardware with 32-bit processors on Windows NT or Windows 95 operating systems
· Institution’s existing systems are Y2K compliant

Last Modified: 08/16/1999