Year 2000 Computing Crisis:

Significant Risks Remain to Department of Education's Student Financial Aid Systems

T-AIMD-98-302: Published: Sep 17, 1998. Publicly Released: Sep 17, 1998.

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Joel C. Willemssen
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed year 2000 (Y2K) computing crisis risks to the Department of Education, focusing on: (1) student financial aid systems; (2) actions the department has taken in recent months to address these risks; and (3) key issues the department must deal with if its systems are to be ready for the century change: testing of systems, exchanging data with internal and external partners, and developing business continuity and contingency plans.

GAO noted that: (1) Education faces major risks that Y2K failures could severely disrupt the student financial aid delivery process, including delaying disbursements and application processing; (2) further, because of systems interdependencies, repercussions from Y2K-related problems could be felt throughout the student financial aid community--a network including students, institutions of higher educations, financial organizations, and other government agencies; (3) the department was very slow in implementing a comprehensive Y2K program to address these risks--basic awareness and assessment tasks were not completed until recently; (4) Education is now accelerating its program, but with the slow start, it remains in a position of playing catch up; (5) accordingly, the department has major challenges ahead but limited time remaining to adequately deal with them; and (6) therefore, it must also focus on developing appropriate contingency plans to ensure business continuity in the event of key systems failures.

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