U.S. Department of Education Uses WebFOCUS to Accurately Allocate Billions of Dollars of Student Aid

Information Builders' Business Intelligence Technology Helps Colleges Award Nearly Two Billion Dollars of Federal Pell Grants During the 2007-08 Year

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - March 25, 2009) - Information Builders, an independent leader in business intelligence (BI) and integration solutions, today announced that its customer, Federal Student Aid, a division of the United States Department of Education, has successfully rolled out the Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR) Analysis Tool to 200 colleges and universities across the country. The tool helps these educational institutions assess the accuracy of student aid applications and determine eligibility for need-based aid such as grants, subsidized loans, and work-study programs.

FSA oversees the distribution of massive amounts of federal money to students. The 150 schools participating in the Quality Assurance Program are required to use the BI tool to monitor the accuracy of these awards. These schools deliver approximately $2 billion in Pell Grants each year. Billions more in federally subsidized loans as well as state and institutional grant aid are awarded based on the financial information students provide on aid applications. Previously, schools would collect the students' financial aid data on their own, and then attempt to analyze it using a variety of distinct systems at each campus. Now FSA personnel, and all of the participating colleges and universities, use the tool to analyze their data under one highly effective system.

"We can now analyze real-time data using common reports in spite of the schools' disparate systems," said Anne B. Tuccillo, senior management/program analyst at FSA. "By using the ISIR Analysis Tool, schools can ensure that the right aid is being distributed to the right students. The tool also helps schools to prevent hundreds of millions of dollars in potential improper payments within the Federal Pell Grant Program."

These substantial savings stem from better procedures for verifying the accuracy of students' Free Applications for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a form that millions of students fill out each year. The reports generated by the ISIR tool allow schools to identify which FAFSA items are most likely to be misreported, which groups of students are most likely to make errors on the form, and which errors are most likely to affect eligibility for need-based aid. A recent FSA study determined that if Pell Grants were awarded with no verification at all, they would have awarded nine percent of grant recipients too much aid and six percent of grant recipients too little aid -- a potential discrepancy of more than $600 million among the 150 schools participating in the Quality Assurance Program. The ISIR Analysis Tool allowed schools to prevent most of the potential 15 percent error rate by verifying the students most likely to make mistakes on their initial applications.

"With an increasing emphasis on online communication in government offices, FSA looked to increase the effectiveness of its interactions with both students and colleges, while simultaneously decreasing the cost of that enhanced communication," said David Rhodes, senior management/program analyst at FSA. "BI technology is at the heart of these efforts." FSA selected Information Builders' WebFOCUS BI platform because it combines intuitive dashboards and drillable reports with complex analytic capabilities that casual business users can quickly comprehend. "WebFOCUS is powerful enough to handle hundreds of thousands of records from schools across the nation and process all of that information through standard Web browsers," he added.

In the past, many financial aid departments at post-secondary institutions focused their verification efforts on the neediest students within their school populations. This seemed like a logical strategy, until the ISIR Analysis Tool helped FSA determine that errors on these student applications typically are not significant enough to change their eligibility for aid. This meant that schools were essentially wasting their time by asking students and their families for financial information that rarely led to any meaningful change in their eligibility. The ISIR Analysis Tool helps financial aid professionals use their time more wisely as they become more selective in students they decide to verify and which data elements to confirm. For example, the Field Change Report lists items on the FAFSA that are most frequently changed after the application verification process. Tracking this information allows schools to discern which items their students are most likely to answer incorrectly, enabling financial aid staff to specifically target those items for verification. Schools can also use this information to improve their community outreach and education efforts as they help new students fill out the FAFSA correctly.

"The ISIR Analysis Tool has enabled us to do some very in-depth analysis of the students we verify, thus giving us the information we need to focus on data elements that are most error-prone," confirmed Janet Roecker, associate director, Office of Student Financial Aid, University of Kansas. "The tool has definitely made our verification process much more efficient."

The FSA recently launched a demo site so that interested schools could "test drive" the BI environment before they sign up to use it. Their goal is to increase the user base to at least 500 schools in the next two years and ultimately to engage 1,500 post-secondary institutions throughout the U.S.

"The ISIR Analysis Tool allows me to easily import records for analysis," added John McPherson, associate director of Scholarships and Financial Aid at Ball State University. "Once records are loaded, the built-in reports and point-and-click menus allow me to see immediate results. We have been able to use the data to modify processes and streamline communications with our students."

About FSA

Federal Student Aid, a performance-based organization within the U.S. Department of Education, ensures that all individuals who meet the eligibility standards of the needs analysis formula created by Congress can benefit from federally funded or federally guaranteed financial assistance for education beyond high school. FSA plays a central role in supporting postsecondary education by partnering with postsecondary schools, financial institutions and other participants in Title IV Student Financial Assistance programs to help students and their families to afford education beyond high school.

About Information Builders

Information Builders' award-winning combination of business intelligence and enterprise integration software has been providing innovative solutions to more than 12,000 customers for the past 30 years. WebFOCUS is the world's most widely utilized business intelligence platform. It provides the security, scalability and flexibility needed at every level of global extended enterprises. Its simplicity helps create executive, analytical, and operational applications that reach dozens to millions of users. Information Builders' iWay Software suite provides state of the art, multi-purpose, pre-built integration components that address all SOA, application, data and information management requirements. Its integration adapters have been adopted by the leading software platform providers. Together, these products give Information Builders' customers the ability to grow and innovate according to their needs.

Information Builders' customers include most of the Fortune 100 and U.S. federal government agencies. Headquartered in New York City with 90 offices worldwide, the company employs 1,450 people and has more than 350 business partners. More information is available at http://www.informationbuilders.com.

Contact Information: Press Contacts: Kathleen Moran Information Builders (212) 736-4433 Karyn Martin Emerge PR (617) 729-3173