10 Steps to a (Nearly) Painless FISAP

Melissa Maichle ., Federal Student Aid Programs, Fiduciary Responsibilities, General Issues in Financial Aid

It’s August in the financial aid office. Stacks of applications still need to be read, loans need to be processed and phones are ringing off the hook as students try to figure out how to pay their fall bill.  Let’s add one more thing to your to-do list:  The Fiscal Operations and Application to Participate, also known as FISAP, is due on October 1st.  You always want to wait until the fall rush dies down to start but that results in undo stress and many late nights in the office.  Here are some steps you can take now to be better prepared to file your FISAP.

Before you start, make use of the Federal Student Aid training resources to know what to expect.

  1. Did your CEO (President, Chancellor, Owner, etc.) change? Make sure your Program Participation Agreement has been updated. You won’t be able to make this change by reporting a new CEO on FISAP.
  2. Request enrollment data for all students at the institution, even if they did not receive aid. You’ll need it to complete FISAP andto verify the enrollment data in your FAMS.
  3. If you still have a Perkins Loan portfolio, collect information regarding the fund activity from your contracted FISAP servicer or your student loan department. Get account balances from your accounting department.
  4. Remember, when it comes to Federal Work-Study awards, you need to report the earnings, not the award amount. If you don’t feed this information into your FAMS from your payroll system, you’ll need to get the information from that office and devise a way to add it to the student’s record to report it
  5. Before requesting campus-based funds for 2020-2021, complete the Fiscal Operations Report sections to understand how funds were used in the prior academic year so you can make a reasonable request. Request what you really need, not just what you got last year.
  6. In the program summary section, you will need to report counts of students receiving aid broken out by specific populations: program, dependency status, income level, enrollment status and “Zero EFC” recipients. Your FAMS system likely has a canned report that makes filling this section easy if you are confident in the data. If enrollment and program data are not automatically fed into your FAMS, it will be worthwhile to make the time to check against your institution’s enrollment records beforehand (see number 3).
  7. Have last year’s FISAP handy to double check your accuracy. If any answer is significantly off from the prior year, figure out why and correct the data as needed. The online application will be comparing answers from year to year and will give you an edit if your answer doesn’t make sense.
  8. Schedule an hour or two starting TODAY to take these steps…trying to do it all at once will be very overwhelming.
  9. If you need to get data from external sources, ask early, set a hard deadline and don’t be afraid to apply pressure if you’re not getting what you need in a timely manner. Your institution stands to lose a great deal of money if your FISAP is not filed accurately and on time.
  10. Schedule an hour or two starting TODAY to take these steps…trying to do it all at once will be very overwhelming.

The key to FISAP success is time – time to collect the data and, more importantly, time to develop confidence in the data you are reporting. Once these steps are complete, filling out the application will be (almost) a breeze.