Just getting started? Each year, the Department of Education publishes a new school guide to help new institutions hit the ground running with federal financial aid. Here’s your checklist:
1/ Complete Required Training
Ok, so your school has signed the Program Participation Agreement and you’re ready to start participating in Federal Student Aid. But wait! Did you know that both the president/CEO and a financial aid administrator have to complete several levels of training within 12 months? These trainings have a significant time commitment: the initial training tutorial (FSA Coach Fundamentals) requires about 20 hours of self-led online instruction. The next step is to sign up for the instructor-led Fundamentals of Federal Student Aid Administration training workshop. These courses are live virtual classes held once a month or every other month. They span 4.5 days, so ensure you have a full work week blocked off just to focus on the training. Sign up ASAP: these courses fill up quickly!
There are some exceptions and stipulations on who must participate: you can request a waiver for either the aid personnel and/or the CEO, but typically The Department may require another official to take the training, or require alternative training. The president/CEO can typically designate another high-level school official designee in his or her place for the instructor-led training, but must complete the FSA Coach Fundamentals regardless. If your institution uses a consultant or third party to administer financial aid, those parties are also required to complete the training. All our senior Financial Aid Services consultants have completed these trainings and are ready to assist your office as you get started.
2/ Staff Appropriately or Outsource
The Department of Education has several staffing requirements for your financial aid office. Your office must be able to effectively communicate with other administrative offices in your institution: if a students’ academic performance drops or they are under enrollment requirements, they may no longer be eligible for financial aid. In addition, one person cannot be responsible for both authorizing financial aid and disbursing the funds, nor can they be members of the same family. There are no exemptions to this rule.
Very small offices often struggle with these stipulations and choose to outsource. This is where Financial Aid Services comes in. Institutions can contract out to consultants or third-party servicers to carry out some of the administrative requirements or just to increase efficiency during peak times. Contact us to see how we can help!
3/ Enroll in FSA Systems to Communicate with The Department of Ed
Your new school is required to share several key student records:
- The Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR)
- The “common record” for the Common Origination and Disbursement (COD) system, which contains award and payment information for FSA grants and Direct Loans
- The Enrollment Monitoring Report through the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS), used to establish eligibility for in-school loan deferments even if your school doesn’t offer FSA loans
- The Transfer Monitoring Report through NSLDS, to track aid that may have been received by a transfer student at a previous school
The most efficient way to communicate with FSA is by batching these files and submitting them through the Student Aid Internet Gateway (SAIG). Set up a mailbox with the SAIG here. Once the SAIG account is established, it opens a gateway to the systems mentioned above.
Our staff can take it from here: when you send us the data, we not only batch transmissions but also check them for accuracy before we send them in–reducing your future workload.
Where to Find Help
It’s a complicated process and the sheer number of acronyms can make your head spin. We’re here for you! Our staff at Financial Aid Services are not only well versed in the process, but also keep up with the changing regulations. We can help you do it right the first time and get your financial aid department up and running as quickly as possible.
Our biggest piece of advice to newer institutions is training doesn’t stop once you get started. Stay up to date on regulations through these resources, and come to us to help guide you.