Federal Student Aid

Federal Student Aid
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Reports & Resources

Studies and reports on the Federal Student Aid programs are produced by the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, the Office of Postsecondary Education, the Government Accounting Office, and the Congressional Budget Office.

This Web page provides answers to some of the more common questions about FSA as well as a brief glossary of financial aid terms.

Question 1

Q: How many aid applications were processed by FSA (Federal Student Aid)?

A: An "aid application" is a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The number represents the sum of electronic and paper applications processed for the processing cycle and includes initial applications and renewal applications. NOTE: Timeframes for aid applications can be measured in "processing cycles", which cross fiscal year lines. In FY 2002 processing cycle, FSA processed 12.3 million FAFSAs. Aid applications increased by 6% to 13.1 million in the FY 2003 processing cycle. There were 13.5 million FAFSAs in the FY 2004 processing cycle. More than 14 million applications are expected in the FY 2005 processing cycle.

Question 2

Q: What percentage of aid applications were processed electronically?

A: Electronic applications include those completed via the web and those completed through EDExpress as well as by schools using 3rd Party servicers. These can be initial applications or renewal applications. In FY 2002, 59% of the FAFSAs were filed electronically. That number rose to 71% in FY 2003 and hit 80% in FY 2004. Electronic applications can be submitted by students or by schools on behalf of the students. In FY 2004, there was a sharp increase in the number of student-submitted FAFSAs.

Question 3

Q: What is the biggest peak week for FAFSA on the WEB (FOTW) processing? What is the processing load?

A: The peak for FOTW processing includes on-line submissions from students. Traditionally, the most active month for FAFSA processing is March. In FY 2002, there were over half a million applications processed during the week of March 11. In FY 2003, processing during the week of March 16 peaked at over 600,000. In FY 2004, the peak number, during the week of March 7, reached almost 800,000 applications processed.

Question 4

Q: What is the size of FSA's outstanding loan portfolio?

A: In FY 2004, FSA's outstanding loan portfolio was $357 billion. It is expected to rise to $400 billion in FY 2005.

Question 5

Q: What is the turnaround time for electronic FAFSAs?

A: Turnaround time is the number of days it takes to process an electronic application. This is counted from the time the application is received by the CPS from the Web or EDExpress, or third-party servicers until it is completely processed by the CPS (performs the required matches with agencies and computes the EFC). It does not include printing of the student aid report (SAR) or preparation of the electronic SAR for the applicant. (Electronic SARS are sent when an email address is provided on the FAFSA). This number is calculated by taking the average time it takes to turnaround each application record. In each of the years (FY 2002, FY 2003 and FY 2004), the processing time for electronic FAFSAs was less than one day. Contractually, the processing time is 72 hours.

Question 6

Q: What is the turnaround time for paper FAFSAs?

A: This is the number of days it takes to process a paper application. This is counted from the time the application is received in the door at the IDC( Image and data capture center -old MDE) imaged, keyed, and transmitted to the CPS and processed (agency match and computation of the EFC). It does not include the time it takes to print the SAR and mail it to the applicant. (Paper applicants can also receive their SAR electronically it they provide an email address on the FAFSA.) This number is calculated by taking the average time it takes to turnaround each application. In each of the years (FY 2002, FY 2003, and FY 2004), the processing time for paper FAFSA was between 2-5 days. Contractually, the processing time is 10-15 days.

Question 7

Q: How many phone calls were handled by the FSA call centers?

A: FSA provides many call centers to assist our customers. The FSAIC, 1-800-4 FED AID, handles the largest volume of calls. In each year, FY 2002, FY 2003 and FY 2004, the FSAIC handled more than 7 million calls from students, parents, borrowers and others interested in information about the financial aid process. In FY 2004, for example, 99.1% of the calls were considered "complete", with an average speed to answer of 7 seconds. Calls coming into the center are queued so that customers first hear general service announcements. If the caller listens through the general announcements but hangs up before selecting additional help, the general announcements are assumed to have answered the questions of the caller, and the call is counted as complete. If calls require additional help, they are asked to select a number that corresponds to a particular type of assistance that queues them up for assistance by a subject matter expert.

Question 8

Q: How much "new" federal aid was delivered in FY 2004?

A: "New" federal aid is defined as student financial aid authorized under Title IV to include the FFEL program, Direct Loan Program, Pell Grants, Perkins Loan Program, and Federal work-study. Figures provided are from the President's budget. In FY 2004, FSA delivered approximately $69 billion (excluding consolidation loans of approximately $32 billion) in aid to approximately ten million students attending approximately 6,200 schools. Students included are those who are attending school at least half time (hence eligible for Title IV aid) and are studying for a terminal degree. Participating schools include colleges and universities and proprietary and career schools in both the FFEL and the Direct Loan Programs. Approximately $73 billion is expected in FY 2005.

Question 9

Q: How many lenders participate in the FFEL program?

A: Lenders in the program can originate loans or hold and service loans. In FY 2002 and FY 2003, there were approximately 3600 participating lenders in the FFEL program. In FY 2004, the number dropped to 3400 because of mergers and consolidations in the lending industry.

Question 10

Q: What is the student loan default rate?

A: The FFELs included in the cohort default rate calculations are subsidized Federal Stafford Loans and unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans (collectively referred to as Federal Stafford Loans) and Federal Supplemental Loans for Students (Federal SLS Loans). Federal SLS loans have not been made since July 1, 1994. However, it is possible for a Federal SLS loan to be included in a current cohort default rate calculation under certain circumstances. The Direct Loans included in the cohort default rate calculation are Federal Direct Subsidized Stafford/Ford Loans and Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford/Ford Loans (collectively referred to as Direct Stafford/Ford Loans). In FY 2003, the cohort default rate declined to 5.4%, in FY 2004, the rate declined further to 5.2%.

Question 11

Q: What is the value of the Direct Loan portfolio?

A: The total portfolio includes loans in repayment as well as loans that are in a "in-school", "grace", "deferment", "forbearance" status and those loans that are delinquent more than 31 days including those that have defaulted but have not yet been transferred to debt collection. It includes all loan types: subsidized, unsubsidized, PLUS and consolidation. At the end of FY 2004, the Direct Loan portfolio was $84.8 Billion. This compares to a portfolio size of $80.9 Billion at the end of FY 2003.

Financial aid terms

A processing year is a period of time during which a series of actions or functions result in the processing of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. For example, the processing year for 2004-2005 is January 1, 2004 - June 30, 2005.

An award year is a period of time during which an applicant can receive federal student aid. For example, the award year for 2004-2005 is July 1, 2004 - June 30, 2005.

An academic year is a measure of academic work to be accomplished by a student. A school defines its own academic year, however, federal statutes and regulations set minimum standards to determine federal financial aid awards.

A federal fiscal year is a 12-month time period, beginning in October an ending in September for which the federal government plans the use of it funds.

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Last Modified: 09/25/2007