Office of Federal Student Aid
FUNCTIONS AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF FSA COMPONENTS
Chief Operating Officer
The Office of the Chief Operating Officer is responsible for effective management of Federal Student Aid (FSA) as a Performance-Based Organization (PBO). The Chief Operating Officer (COO) manages operations and support functions to ensure that best-in-business performance is consistently delivered.
Policy Liaison and Implementation Staff
The Policy Liaison and Implementation Staff (PLIS) serves as the principal advisor to Federal Student Aid’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) on all Title IV student assistance programs policy issues. PLIS leads and facilitates FSA’s involvement in the development, implementation and dissemination of Title IV student aid policy. In accordance with 20 USC 3426, PLIS serves as the Liaison for Proprietary Institutions of Higher Education (PHIE) which includes providing expertise, advice, and guidance on issues affecting PIHEs. PLIS consists of two teams, the Policy Formulation and Implementation Team and the Policy Innovation and Dissemination Team, each led by an Assistant Director.
Policy Formulation and Implementation Team Functions
- Formulating policy recommendations based on research and studies of the impact of proposed courses of action
- Identifying policy issues affecting the student financial assistance programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (the HEA) for consultation with Departmental policy offices (the Office of the Undersecretary (OUS), the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE), and the Office of Policy Evaluation and Development (OPEPD)
- Providing advice in the development of regulations, policies, administrative policy guidance, and procedures affecting the Title IV student assistance programs
- Recommending statutory and regulatory changes for improving the Title IV student assistance programs to improve their efficiency and integrity
- Preparing preliminary drafts of Dear Colleague Letters for consideration by Departmental policy offices
- Drafting Policy Electronic Announcements for review by senior FSA staff
- Implementing policy
- Supporting FSA program operations and assisting management in implementing Title IV student aid policy decisions and serving as liaison in resolving issues related to policy implementation
- Ensuring consistency and integration of Title IV student aid policy across all of FSA’s programs and operations
- Reporting to the COO and to OPE on status of the implementation of policy decisions.
- Preparing and publishing Federal Register Notices for Data Matching Agreements, Systems of Records, etc.
- Developing and preparing for government clearance various forms required for the Title IV student aid programs.
Policy Innovation and Dissemination Team Functions
- Developing and recommending innovative policy options and approaches
- Managing the Quality Assurance Program authorized by section 487A(a) of the HEA
- Designing, managing and monitoring innovative performance-based approaches in student aid delivery under the Experimental Sites Initiative authorized by section 487A(b) of the HEA
- Disseminating policy information
- Developing and publishing the annual update of the Federal Student Aid Handbook(FSAH).This includes:
- Monitoring negotiated rulemaking sessions, proposed and final rules, Dear Colleague Letters, Electronic Announcements, and other documents to determine if changes need to be made to FSAH information.
- Drafting the annual updated FSAH.
- Submitting FSAH revisions to reviewing offices, including operational offices within FSA, other areas of PLI, OPE staff, and where needed to other ED offices(e.g., OGC, OIG)
- Consulting with the reviewing offices to address any comments and suggested edits.
- Responding to policy queries submitted by internal and external parties either directly or through other FSA operating units (e.g.; customer service, system call centers, Case Management, Financial Partners and FSA Training Branch)
- Supporting FSA training for institutional financial aid administrators and other interested parties
Enterprise Data Office
The primary mission of the Enterprise Data Office in Federal Student Aid is to provide high quality data analytics to inform stakeholders and enhance FSA’s capabilities to make informed strategic management decisions.
The Enterprise Data Office is responsible for the establishment and maintenance of the Federal Student Aid electronic data warehouse, which will serve as the repository for information on FSA’s financial aid programs. The office is responsible and accountable for data analytics activities, to include large-scale analytical studies, modeling, statistical analyses, and forecasting. This information will be used to study and forecast information about FSA’s financial assistance programs, including the possible outcomes of various operational decisions and regulatory or programmatic changes. Further, the information will be used to fulfill data requests and respond to inquiries.
The work will be carried out in three organizational components;
- Office of the Chief Data Officer
- Enterprise Data Warehouse Architecture
- Data Analytics Team
Office of the Chief Data Officer
The Office of the Chief Data Officer will be responsible for the following activities:
- Provide management, leadership, direction and policy setting for the Enterprise Data Office;
- Conduct budget and resource planning for the Office’s activities;
- Conduct change management activities including coordinating with other offices concerning system changes;
- Administer data governance activities including development and maintenance of the data dictionary, and enterprise definitions;
- Provide historical perspective and information to aid decision making;
- Serve as liaison with or chair of the FSA Data Governance Board;
- Establish processes for data quality measurement; and
- Serve as liaison with the Department and other agencies.
Enterprise Data Warehouse Architecture
The Enterprise Data Warehouse Architecture organization will be responsible for the following activities:
- Operate and administer warehouse operations and architecture;
- Accomplish access and usage governance;
- Conduct database administration activities;
- Establish data policies and procedures;
- Ensure that appropriate clearances are obtained for records;
- Retire old data systems and sources;
- Serve as interface with the FSA Technology office;
- Develop and maintain an infrastructure roadmap;
- Ensure data integrity and systems security;
- Conduct database performance monitoring and quality assurance/control;
- Establish and maintain FSA wide data standards;
- Keep up to date with emerging trends and best practices related to data technology and analysis; and
- Conduct and/or monitor contracting activities related to the operations and maintenance of the data warehouse.
Data Analytics Team
The Data Analytics Team organization will be responsible for the following activities:
- Conduct and administer data request fulfillment;
- Establish data intake request processes and tracking systems;
- Conduct large scale analytical studies, modeling, statistical analyses, business intelligence, forecasting, and complex segmentation
- Product Development
- Develop and maintain analytics roadmap;
- Establish and maintain dashboard and visualizations;
- Determine stakeholder needs/requirements for information;
- Compile and provide informative data and metrics for display on the studentaid.gov website;
- Coordinate activities with Communications office regarding Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Privacy Act issues;
- Develop briefings, presentations and position papers to present highly technical analytical information to key stakeholders internal and external to FSA and the Department;
- Identify trends and potential risks within the portfolio of student aid;
- Create proactive and predictive models for the end-to-end portfolio of student aid;
- Provide support to the Customer Experience organization by conducting modeling and complex statistical analyses of customer data as required;
- Conduct or manage complex studies of new proposed legislation and regulations to determine impact on aid recipients, schools and other participants;
- Serve as FSA business liaison for Department data projects to ensure that FSA partners effectively share date where appropriate; and
- Maintain records of all queries and responses.
Strategic Planning And Reporting Staff
The Strategic Planning and Reporting Staff provides strategic measurement initiatives and data in order to track program and organizational performance. Staff will leverage internal administrative assistance as well as a production team to focus efforts on strategic value-adding tasks and activities and performs the following functions:
- Developing, executing, and continually improving the strategic planning process so that the organization has a clear and consistent approach to improving performance. The outputs of this process include an annually updated Five Year Performance Plan as well as the associated annual plans;
- Developing and maintaining the assessment of key Federal Student Aid metrics;
- Tracking and measuring Management Council and/or Chief Operating Officer assigned initiatives (e.g., Annual Performance Plan). Communicating results of annual plans and Management Council initiatives on a bi-weekly, quarterly, and annual basis;
- Implementing measurement processes to ensure the necessary and needed performance information is available, including employee surveys, customer surveys, and performance metrics;
- Providing support to the organization concerning performance reporting and performance measures mandated by, e.g., the Office of Management and Budget; and
- Performing data analysis and reporting (e.g., program data and Congressionally mandated reporting).
Communications & Outreach Staff
Communications & Outreach is responsible for managing all activities within FSA related to internal and external communications and conferences, special outreach activities, Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act, and controlled correspondence. The Director’s office manages the overall operation, and in doing so, seeks to build and sustain FSA’s image by ensuring consistency in communications. The staff compiles, tracks, and reports relevant enterprise and industry performance metrics. Strategy is developed to effectively disseminate information to various public and stakeholder groups through the media, established inter-governmental channels, and proactive campaigns. The development, design, and delivery of an internal communications strategy through a variety of media to support the needs of FSA and its business units, and to aid in making FSA one of the best places to work in government is a key responsibility,
The staff is divided into the following service areas:
- Conference & Outreach Services Team
- Correspondence Services Team
Conference & Outreach Services Team
- Conference and Outreach Services provides management of Federal Student Aid's enterprise conference strategy and coordinates the annual FSA conferences. It also assists the Department, when requested, in planning and delivery of conference activities. The organization is also responsible for planning and development of outreach initiatives. In particular, Conference and Outreach Services is responsible for the following functional areas:
- Conference Management: The conference management team plans and manages FSA-sponsored conferences as well as the enterprise conference strategy. This team is also responsible for coordinating FSA's support of and participation in conferences held by the student financial assistance and higher education communities. Furthermore this unit provides assistance, when requested, to the Department in planning and managing conference events.
- Outreach: From time to time, the COO will call upon this unit to support planning and execution of outreach initiatives to various constituencies. The unit will define requirements to be met, design (or supervise) the design the delivery means, and provide the oversight to assure that the implementation of the communications service fulfills the intent of the COO.
Correspondence Services Team
- As needed, in coordination with the ED Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Privacy Act Officers, this team is responsible for establishing systems, procedures, and controls to coordinate and fulfill, within regulatory timeframes, requests for information under the FOIA and Privacy Acts. Requests, as well as any extensions needed, will be tracked.
- This unit also receives reviews, disseminates for appropriate action, and tracks controlled correspondence.
Office of Business Optimization
The Office of Business Optimization’s mission is to lead a broad range of studies and activities to assess and improve the quality, efficiency and productivity of FSA management operations in areas such as finance, business processes, culture, technology, human resources, planning, partnering and collaboration, delivery mechanisms, acquisitions, operations, shared services and risk.
The Office develops and implements strategic business transformation plans. The work is carried out by staff in the Chief Business Optimization Officer’s office, and by two teams, the Business Transformation Team and the Employee Engagement Team.
The Chief Business Optimization Officer’s office conducts long range strategic studies, provides best in business strategies, thought leadership and results for projects designated by the Chief Operating Officer as well as initiatives growing out of the studies conducted. The office conducts research and best practices activities including:
- Working in concert with the FSA business units to identify areas which can benefit from improvements, particularly those where a technology solution may be of benefit.
- Conducting benchmarking research to determine how other organizations perform the same or similar work, including organizations within FSA and the Department, other federal, state or private sector organizations performing loan, debt collection or regulatory compliance activities, or other organizations performing the same generic activities, such as federal agencies’ acquisition activities, human resources, budget or finance.
- Determining if the benchmarked activities constitute best practices, by identifying if the practice results in superior outcomes, is recognized by others as a best practice, has received external awards and recognition, is recognized by its customers, and/or leads to exceptional organizational performance.
The benchmarking process includes:
- Defining the process to be benchmarked. Flowcharting the work. Determining the level of change required, such as the entire system, or portions thereof. Determining if improvements can be made by modifying one or more tasks within the existing process, or is wholesale change needed. Determining if change is possible given the potential cost and related factors. Determining the overall priority of the change.
- Determining the organizations to be benchmarked – those organizations with high performance levels which would be viable partners or willing to share information. Researching published sources. Consulting professional organizations or other expert sources.
- Developing a data collection plan and gathering data through site visits. Creating reports of findings.
- Analyzing the differences between the process as it currently exists, and the best practices identified. Combining the best features of each best practice identified into an approach for FSA.
- Forecasting potential trends in the activity being studied, and projecting future performance with and without the process changes.
- Communicating the benchmarking results and the potential efficiencies, cost savings, improvements in customer satisfaction, elimination of manual processes, etc. to be achieved. Achieving consensus about the need for the change.
- Developing plans for implementation of change.
- Providing support to the business units in implementing change and monitoring outcomes.
- Evaluating the benchmarking process used and making continuous changes.
The Business Transformation Team works collaboratively with internal FSA client teams to solve complex problems. The team uses proven consulting methodologies to help move the enterprise toward a more efficient, effective and process-driven environment. The team is responsible for transformation activities in the following areas:
- Formulating strategy for FSA business unit clients, including organizational and process alignment, identifying guiding principles for success in reaching the strategy, and future state visioning.
- Developing new processes to support mission or regulatory changes. This includes the defining rules, work steps, measurements, and technologies required to support the new process.
- Assessing, designing and/or redesigning existing FSA business processes to identify savings in costs, productivity, satisfaction, cycle time, and/or regulatory compliance. The Group identifies both quick wins that can deliver immediate or near-term improvements and building blocks that deliver longer term improvements.
- Using best practices research findings to support strategy and process design/redesign recommendations where appropriate. Assessing how top performing organizations leverage people, process and technology.
- Examining business practices, processes, and management systems of private and public sector organizations that have demonstrated quantifiable superior competencies in areas relevant to FSA. Enabling processes using workflow technologies, through collaboration with other groups in FSA. Translating business needs into technology solutions by developing visions and requirements documents and identifying key data items to manage transactions.
- Implementing new and revised processes, procedures, and management systems using proven change management methodologies. The team develops organization change plans, integrates new work flows into business operations, provides documentation of technology, process and procedures changes, and establishes continuous improvement frameworks.
The team is responsible for working with FSA’s business units to identify areas in which the work can be done more effectively, and in a less costly or more innovative manner. Once areas are identified, research into best practices of other organizations can help determine what works, and how to replicate the successes, and avoid the mistakes of others. The use of best practices information can improve the way FSA approaches new initiatives and help to manage change.
The Office of Business Optimization is responsible for development and recommendation of strategies to facilitate employee engagement, culture change and increased accountability and productivity throughout FSA. The responsibility for ensuring employee engagement, accountability, and productivity rests with each FSA supervisor, manager and employee.
The Employee Engagement Team provides enterprise - wide support to these efforts through, and not limited to the following activities:
- Serving as the key advisor to the Chief Operating Officer and business unit leaders on employee engagement strategies.
- Coordinating FSA First Class, an ad hoc team working to improve communication and find ways to bring FSA staff together to publicize and celebrate accomplishments, recognize employees through award ceremonies, and develop opportunities for employees and supervisors to work in concert to achieve mutual goals.
- Tracking Employee Viewpoint Survey reports; reviews and analyzes the information to determine the areas which need improvement. Recommends appropriate actions for individual business units. Tracks and monitors results. Represents FSA in contacts with the Department and with other agencies regarding employee engagement matters.
- Soliciting information from employees, including employing focus groups or other methods of obtaining employee input on what employees think should be done to improve engagement on an enterprise wide basis. Synthesizes information provided by employees and advises senior leaders on the best ways to meet employee needs.
- Developing and recommending strategies and approaches to maximize the effective use of telework, such as hoteling and workspace design, in coordination with Administrative Services.
- In concert with Administrative Services, identifying and recommending training for employees and managers in areas that will improve engagement, including management interactions with employees, matters of respect and courtesy, and diversity and inclusion. Developing and recommending methods to leverage diversity in order that FSA may gain the benefits of a wide variety of viewpoints and perspectives on critical issues.
- Reviewing practices at other agencies where improvements have been made in employee engagement to determine what works, while recognizing that each agency’s culture and circumstances are unique. Tailors methods to FSA’s culture.
- Providing consultative services to business units on organizational development and change, and assists managers in making and implementing productive plans.
For enterprise-wide events such as the FSASSY awards, the Office of Business Optimization will fund the activities; individual business unit activities will be funded by the business unit.