Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
February 5, 1999

ISU tapped for aid pilot project

Iowa State is among eight universities participating in a federal pilot program that will allow students to monitor and control their financial aid accounts over the Web and access a number of other federal agencies electronically.

Access America for Students will give students electronic access to the government across agencies, said ISU Treasurer Joan Thompson, who is among those working on the project.

Access America for Students will be pioneered at the participating universities starting next fall semester. Initial services offered through the pilot program will include student loan qualification, student aid application and allocation, requests for address changes and applications for veteran student benefits.

ISU students accessing their federal financial aid information through Access America will be able to see how much they have borrowed, how much they owe and how much they have paid back, Thompson said. All of the student's financial aid information, whether involving Iowa State or other schools, will be available on one site.

Iowa State's role in the financial aid process will not change under the pilot program, Thompson noted. Iowa State will remain the primary point of contact for students and will continue to determine student eligibility and the aid package.

The university also will continue to select its own banking partners, receive federal financial aid to apply to the student accounts, and calculate and apply credit balances to student bank accounts, she added.

Through Access America, federal government officials also intend to offer tax filing, passport application, online campsite reservations and applications for backwoods permits, Thompson added. Plans are eventually to expand both the federal and school offerings and perhaps add commercial services, such as card-based purchases on campus and with local merchants.

Iowa State was asked to participate in the program because of its expertise in various areas of the project and its history of offering sophisticated online services for students, Thompson said.

Iowa State was one of the first universities to provide Touch-tone registration. The AccessPlus system, which gives ISU students online access to their personal university information, and the financial aid voice response system, which allows students to check the status of their aid, are other examples of how Iowa State has used technology to enhance student services, Thompson said.

"The pilot project is expected to streamline what we already offer and combine it with other information to give students increased access to their records and provide them with a one-stop base for information," she said.

If the Access America pilot is successful, plans are to expand the project to more campuses in the year 2000 and make it available to all students with Internet access in 2001.

Other schools participating in the pilot program are Devry Institute of Technology in Illinois, New York University, Tarrant County Junior College in Texas, the University of Florida, the University of Missouri at Kansas City, the University of Northern Colorado and the Western Governor's University in Utah.

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