Accenture, Education Department launch upgraded financial aid Web site

Accenture and the Department of Education's Office of Student Financial Assistance have launched a new Free Application for Federal Student Aid Web site, making the application process for student financial aid quicker, more efficient and more accessible, Accenture announced Feb. 21.

Federal education officials predict the next few months could be one of the busiest financial aid seasons in at least a decade. Four million students used FAFSA online last year, and this year, the number is projected to increase to six million ? three of every five applications the Office of Student Financial Assistance receives.

Students, parents, schools and taxpayers will benefit from the new site's features, said Steve Shane, a partner with Accenture, a management and technology services firm based in Hamilton, Bermuda.

"The upgraded Web site is more accessible with less downtime, and the forms are easier and quicker to fill out than before. By accommodating the increased volume of online applications, the site will save taxpayer dollars by reducing paper submissions and manual processing costs," Shane said.

The overhaul of the Web site cost $6.5 million. It is part of Accenture's ongoing modernization project with the Office of Student Financial Assistance, which is worth a projected $250 million over five years, according to the company.

The modernization is enabling the office to operate more like the commercial sector while complying with the Government Performance Results Act of 1993, according to Accenture. Throughout the units of the Office of Student Financial Assistance, best practices from the private and public sectors are being applied to develop business processes, technology alternatives and training and competency assessments that reflect the agency's performance-based vision and objectives.

The FAFSA Web site includes:
* new user-friendly design and layout for faster, easier navigation through the aid application;
* new worksheets to familiarize students and parents with the online application process and assist them with income estimation, a factor determining aid eligibility;
* a security feature to prevent users from submitting duplicate applications;
* the ability to temporarily save an application for later completion;
* the ability to print a Student Aid Report, which gives students and parents current information related to the application process.

The FAFSA Web site address is http://fafsa.ed.gov/.

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