FSA Partner Connect’s New System Transition

Melissa Maichle .

Preparing for a Seamless Transition: FSA Partner Connect Update

In a recent update on November 7, 2023, Federal Student Aid (FSA) announced crucial information regarding the upcoming December 2023 transition to a new and improved system for processing and data publishing purposes. As such, Financial Aid Administrators and in particular office coordinators are reminded to take necessary actions by November 24, 2023, to ensure a smooth transition to the new system. This article aims to cover some of the main changes reported as well as describe and summarize some of the specifics from FSA’s recently updated announcement.

Key Actions for Schools

Schools are advised to review their current Eligibility and Certification Approval Record (ECAR) to ensure accurate demographic and contact information are listed. Critical details like the President’s and Financial Aid Director’s names and email addresses must be correct, especially if the university has recently experienced a change in either of these positions. Changes should have been made on the current E-App website by November 17, 2023. If you have not done so, use the same website to contact your School Participation Division (SPD)Regional Office to learn how best to proceed.

Additionally, by December 15 schools should make sure to submit their 2024-2024 FISAP edit corrections and their 2024-2025 FISAP Perkins cash on hand update as of October 31, 2023.

Lastly, by February 5, 2024, schools should also submit their waiver for the 2024-2025 award year penalty for underuse of 2022-2023 award year funds.

New FSA Partner Connect Feature

The new digital hub, FSA Partner Connect, will be redesigned to streamline Federal Student Aid and partner school engagement. Key features in the modernized platform will include a customized dashboard, easier access to school profile information, integrated views of student and borrower account details, and streamlined access to the Knowledge Center, the Federal Student Aid Handbook and FSA Training Conference information.

Upcoming Changes

On December 17, 2023, FSA plans to launch a major update to FSA Partner Connect, including a redesigned Application for Approval to Participate in the Federal Student Financial Assistance Programs (E-App) and other enhancements.

New FSA Partner Connect Features

E-App Redesign: A new version of the E-App will be available, facilitating the submission of applications and recertifications with improved documentation and digital signature processes. As the announcement states, “the updated E-App will improve the supporting documentation and signature processes” as schools will no longer need to mail or use a separate system to provide supporting documentation, like the Accrediting Letter and State License/Legal Authorization. Additionally, DocuSign capabilities have now been built into the system to collect all required signatures via email notification.

Updated Eligibility & Oversight Administrator Role: A designated Application Administrator must be assigned by each school to manage account access for E-App updates and in order to oversee eligibility and oversight-related cases.

Third-Party Servicer Relationships: Schools will also be able to grant access to third-party servicers to certain systems, enhancing collaboration.

E-App Processing Impacts During Transition: Transition Period: The existing E-App will cease on November 24, 2023, requiring users to complete necessary actions by this date.

Data Preservation: Schools are encouraged to download or print critical items before November 24, 2023, as the existing online system will no longer be accessible.

Availability of Institutional Reports: Partners in service will have access to reports associated with Title IV participation at the institutional level. Users will be able to download reports to help with their own reconciliation and data review processes.

Reiteration of Important Dates and Actions

For the December 31 Recertification Cohort, E-Apps should have been submitted via eligcert.ed.gov by November 17, 2023, since the old system is scheduled to be retired by November 24. Starting November 25, users will no longer be able to sign-in or utilize any of the eligcert.ed.gov systems. As FSA underlines, “no later than Nov. 24, 2023, we strongly encourage schools to download or print the following items to save for their records and to have available to re-enter data in the new online system, if needed: Current ECAR, and any acknowledgment and approval notices and letters that the school does not have saved in the school’s application data (for cases in which a school recently applied, but that application has not been processed).”

Please note that unsubmitted E-Apps started by or before November 24, 2023, will not carry over to the new system. If a school experienced a major event that impacted their eligibility and ability to complete the necessary steps before November 17, 2023, they should notify their School Participation Division via email of the event.

Additional Communication and Support

Training Opportunities: FSA will provide training on new features, with announcements on the Knowledge Center within the coming weeks. As such, remember to continue monitoring electronic announcements as they are presented because these will provide some critical updates regarding the next steps for this process. Additionally, partners are encouraged to submit questions through the Customer Support form in the FSA Partner Connect Help Center.

In conclusion, this update emphasizes the importance of timely actions to ensure a seamless transition to the enhanced FSA Partner Connect, providing partners with advanced tools and resources for improved collaboration and efficiency. Stay in the loop about this and other changes by following the Higher Education Assistance Group Blog. For further questions or if you require additional support or training, contact us at info@heag.us.