If It Doesn’t Suck, It Isn’t Worth Doing… catchy headline, right? It’s the title of an article I read the other day, telling the story of a business man who invites a Navy SEAL to live in his house for 30 days. The goal: have the SEAL help him break out of a rut and develop mental toughness. The first thing the SEAL teaches him is, of course, the SEAL motto: “If it doesn’t suck, we don’t do it!”
Facing FinAid Challenges Head-on
This is an ethos I like to think our product development team at CampusLogic lives by, too. We like to take on challenging, difficult elements across the financial aid experience and try to make them easier. We’re on a mission to remove administrative burden for schools so that they can focus their time on making a difference in the lives of their students. Helping schools change lives is at the heart of what we do. What we do isn’t always easy. In fact, some days it sucks.
PPY & Early FAFSA
As we all know, the transition to prior-prior year (PPY) and early FAFSA has created a one-time situation where two aid years (16-17 and 17-18) will use the same tax information. All FA offices have been working to align timelines and resources, and prepare for the Oct. 1 implementation deadline—and have been doing so for nearly 10 months.
New Administrative Burden: C Code 399
At NASFAA’s 2016 National Conference, held in July there was much discussion about the new ISIR comment code—Comment Code 399—the Department of Ed has announced they will use to identify students whose tax information is conflicting across aid years.
At NASFAA’s Conference in July, the Department announced plans to run an algorithm comparing the tax data on the 16-17 FAFSA and the 17-18 FAFSA. If the algorithm reveals that a student reported different information in each year beyond a tolerance, the school would be responsible for resolving the conflicting information. In addition, in some cases the school will be responsible for making changes to a student’s award in either year, based on the updated information. We can all imagine how not-fun those conversations might be.
You can read the Dear Colleague Letter GEN-16-14 that they released later on August 3rd (a two-month warning for schools before 17-18 applications opened).
What C Code 399 Does & Doesn’t Do
The code doesn’t tell the school what the discrepancy is, only that there is one—not very helpful, in our opinion. And it raises the question of how schools plan to do the research on these students and clear the discrepancies.
CampusLogic’s Compliance, Product Management, and Engineering teams sat down to try to answer that question. What we came up with is a design for a “399 Workbench” that would make finding and correcting conflicting information and clearing these codes easy. The 399 Workbench will be added to our StudentForms product.
399 Workbench Features
- Automatically creates a queue of students with a 399 Comment Code that need to be reviewed and resolved
- Employs a single page to compare tax information collected from ISIRs for both years, and from supporting documents
- Reduces time needed to research those in queue for resolution by highlighting the actual conflicting information
- Enables financial aid staff to request additional information from a student flagged with C Code 399 via text/sms notification
- Simplifies the student experience by having students complete a wizard-driven process in CampusLogic’s StudentForms product, where students and parents can use e-signature to submit additional information to resolve the conflict
- Allows for easy update of corrections, and immediately generates the corrections file
- With TD Client Integration, our StudentForms product automatically transmits the corrections to the Department of Education
- Provides complete auditing and tracking so no student falls through the cracks and you have supporting information for audits
Easy Isn’t Always Easy, But It’s Worth The Effort
Making something easy isn’t always easy, and takes thoughtful analysis. Here’s the whiteboard from our session where we mapped the logic just for managing the corrections and the statuses of each record:
Our engineers took a look at our design and mockups and provided an estimate of the time and effort needed to build 399 Workbench—it’s no small feat. And it’s basically disposable code because this will be a problem for only one single aid year. This project will be one where our project manager deserves a medal. To be ready for October 1, 2016 will mean a lot of work in an extremely short period of time. It means putting other work on hold. Most software companies would look for a work-around or leave the solution up to the customer to figure it out. Seriously, ask your SIS vendor what they are planning to do to manage C Code 399 resolution.
We’re Creating It Because It’s The Right Thing To Do
Questions that came up as we talked through it all: Should we build it? Should we charge extra for this feature? Is it worth the headaches? For the Product Development team at CampusLogic it was an easy decision. Yes, it’s worth it because it’s the right thing to do.
One of our core values is “We love our customer and they know it.” Since another of our core values is “We work hard and always give our best,” I know this team will deliver on the Oct. 1 deadline. Project 399 Workbench jumped to the front of our development queue and the team is hard at work on it as we speak (literally, no matter what time you’re reading this blog, they’re likely working on it).
What Current Customers Need To Know
All StudentForms customers will have access to 399 Workbench at no additional charge. This feature will be available weeks—maybe even months—before a school’s SIS is ready to process the 17-18 award year. Schools will be able to identify students who need 16-17 awards adjusted sooner without more resources. Check out the picture of 399 Workbench under construction, and click on the image to see a larger version of it:
Now that’s what I call making financial aid awesome—and making the PPY/Early FAFSA headaches a little less awful.
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