What Do You Want in an Online FSA ID System?

July 22, 2016
By Paula Acevedo, Graduate Policy Assistant

As the FAFSA’s earlier October availability for the 2017-18 academic year approaches, NCAN is still working to resolve problems with the Federal Student Aid (FSA) identification system. NCAN recently met with United States Digital Services (USDS), following the White House’s announcement that USDS and the U.S. Department of Education’s FSA office would work together to review and streamline the FSA ID process. 

Based on that meeting, NCAN is seeking examples of a user-friendly online system (similar to online banking) for creating an FSA ID. We welcome suggestions from our members, parents and students; please email your suggestions to our policy director, Carrie Warick, by Friday, July 29.

Since last fall, NCAN members have been sharing their experiences with the new FSA ID system, and two recurring themes emerged throughout the peak of the 2016-17 FAFSA season. First, the FSA ID was creating additional hurdles for students to access financial aid. Second, members saw fewer FAFSAs being completed. (Among their concerns was that some families may not have consistent internet access to create and maintain an FSA ID.) In October, NCAN sent FSA a memo outlining these problems. 

In their response to NCAN, FSA officials said they were working with Office of the Inspector General to “reduce the burden” of requiring too many security questions to create a FSA ID; a too long, 30-minute wait period to reset the password using security challenge questions; and a too-frequent password expiration, every 18 months. Then, in April, NCAN convened a video conference with top officials from FSA’s Customer Relations Department to further explain the difficulties our members reported. 

Improvements to the FSA ID system are essential to eliminating unintended consequences that are costly to students’ future: The number of FAFSAs completed by high school seniors dropped by 3.2 percent between April 29, 2015 and April 19, 2016. This drop accounts for nearly 52,000 students who started a FAFSA but did not complete it.

How would you address these problems through a user-friendly online system that works for all students and parents? NCAN looks forward to hearing your suggestions, and we also encourage you to continue reporting your FSA ID challenges directly to FSA.

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