WASHINGTON — Today, during its virtual 2020 training conference for financial aid professionals, the U.S. Department of Education’s (Department) office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) unveiled its latest update to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ Next Gen FSA initiative: the FSA Partner Connect portal. The site, announced by FSA Chief Operating Officer Mark A. Brown, will consolidate the tools that institutions and other partners use onto a single digital platform.
“A few short years ago, we set out to transform Federal Student Aid to function like a world-class financial institution and to better serve our customers,” said Secretary DeVos. “We have made tremendous progress on that goal, and student aid borrowers have more resources, tools, and information at their fingertips than ever before. With today’s announcement of the new portal, we’re taking yet another important step to make interacting with FSA a better, more user-friendly experience for financial aid professionals who work so hard to ensure students have the resources they need to pursue their higher education goals.”
FSA Partner Connect will launch in March 2021 and include a user-friendly dashboard with streamlined operational information by award year, notifications related to a partner’s specific school activities, and the ability to track scheduled system outages. The new site will feature links to frequently visited Department systems and sites and will include a new Knowledge Center to replace the Information for Financial Aid Professionals (IFAP) website.
Brown added, “The FSA Partner Connect portal is an important step we are taking to deliver on the Next Gen promise for postsecondary institutions and other critical partners. Federal Student Aid is working to understand and address our partners’ pain points with their federal student aid experience in the same way we do with our customers’ experience.”
In addition to a new look and layout, the Knowledge Center will be easy to navigate and will feature improved search capabilities. Centralized training and guidance for financial aid professionals will include a redesigned, interactive Federal Student Aid Handbook, with an easy-to-navigate table of contents and enhanced search function.
“Today’s reveal of the FSA Partner Connect portal follows a commitment I made less than one year ago to help reduce the administrative burden on financial aid professionals at more than 5,600 postsecondary schools around the globe, allowing them more time to serve students,” Brown said.
Since Brown’s commitment, FSA formed the Partner Experience Council, a group of more than 100 individuals representing postsecondary schools, federal loan servicers, and state agencies that provide federal student aid-related services. FSA has worked closely with the council to thoughtfully analyze how partners use Department systems and gain a deeper understanding of partners’ daily financial aid processes and procedures. This interactive approach provides an opportunity for FSA to address partners’ pain points and challenges and develop tools and resources that deliver an intuitive, effective, integrated experience.
Attendees at the 2020 virtual FSA training conference can see a preview demonstration of the partner portal in the conference Resource Center, and in the coming months, FSA will continue to gather feedback from the partner community to design and test the portal for future enhancements following the March 2021 launch.