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New Program Will Simplify Loan Application Procedure

By Andrew A. Green

Applying for federal student loans may become less time-consuming next year if a joint program between the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and Harvard's Office of Financial Aid is successful.

Harvard has entered a DOE program that allows schools with good track records of compliance with federal standards to tailor financial aid regulations to their individual needs, according to James S. Miller, director of financial aid.

The result will be less paperwork and bureaucracy for both students and financial aid administrators, Miller said.

"What we hope to do is to take out some of the bureaucratic steps we have had to take in the past," Miller said. "Right now we have to spend a lot of time worrying about minute regulations."

The changes students are most likely to notice will be a streamlining of the required exchange of information, Miller said.

Students are now required to view a 45-minute DOE video before signing their loan papers, a process that does not make much sense for Harvard, Miller said.

"The federal loan program has all kinds of bells and whistles," he said. "Now students will not have to sit through this meaningless 45-minute video. We're trying to replace it with something that will make more sense."

Financial aid administrators will also be relieved of many of the minute record-keeping tasks they now perform, Miller said.

"We're moving toward macro regulations as opposed to micro regulations," he said.

According to a press release from the DOE, Harvard is part of a Quality Assurance Consortium together with 47 other schools across the country, all of whom are pursuing regulatory experiments similar to this one.

The individual schools sent proposals to the DOE last year for potential changes to the regulations, according to Notre Dame University Assistant Director of Financial Aid Susan R. Brandt, who is helping to organize this consortium.

The DOE responded by taking the best parts of the proposals and giving individual schools permission to implement them, Brandt said.

The DOE will evaluate the effectiveness of the altered regulations on a case-by-case basis over the next five years by monitoring factors including the default rate of borrowers, the press release said.

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