Student Financial Aid Systems:

Absence of Guiding Architecture Reduces Efficiency, Ease of Use

T-AIMD-97-147: Published: Jul 29, 1997. Publicly Released: Jul 29, 1997.

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Joel C. Willemssen
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GAO discussed its review of the Department of Education's progress in integrating its National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) with other student financial aid systems, as required by law.

GAO noted that: (1) the Department of Education has made only limited progress in integrating NSLDS with the other student financial aid systems that support title IV programs; (2) this is largely because the Department has not developed an overall systems architecture, a framework needed to allow these disparate systems to operate in concert with each other; (3) as a result, while information can be shared among systems, the process is cumbersome, expensive, and unreliable; (4) further, the lack of a systems architecture allows the proliferation of individual stand-alone systems; (5) this is expensive, not only with respect to system procurement, operation, and maintenance, but also in terms of efficiency; (6) such an approach has served immediate program needs on a limited basis, but undermines sharing of student financial aid information across programs; and (7) this, in turn, can result in different databases containing different and perhaps conflicting information on the status of student loan or grant.

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