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Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release January 15, 1999

        Administration Pilots Service for Post-Secondary Students

to Get Combined Government and Commercial Services over the Internet

Washington, DC -- Vice President Gore announced today that, starting this fall, college students will be able to use the Internet to get combined government and commercial services.

The Vice President unveiled Access America for Students today at the Global Forum on Reinventing Government. The Access America for Students action plan refocuses the delivery of federal electronic services across agency boundaries to better serve the needs of post-secondary students who need government services.

"We need to make effective use of today's technology to improve citizen services and reduce government costs," Vice President Gore said. "This pilot program will provide the basis for continued efforts to make online government transactions available to any customer that wishes to receive services electronically."

Access America for Students pilot projects will be conducted this fall on six campuses -- DeVry Institute of Technology in Illinois, New York University, Tarrant County Junior College in Texas, the University of Florida, the University of Missouri at Kansas City, the University of Northern Colorado, and the Western Governor's University in Utah. George Washington University, Iowa State University, and Tennessee State University will participate in an advisory capacity.

Initial federal services offered in the pilot include: student loan qualification, student aid application and allocation, requests for address changes, application for veteran student benefits, tax filing, passport applications, as well as online campsite reservations and applications for backwoods permits.

Commercial services, such as card-based purchases both on campus and with local merchants, can bundled with the government services to provide one-stop convenience. The pilot project will also investigate the benefits of implementing a common student account structure to consolidate educational loans and to allow account management through the existing commercial electronic payment infrastructure.

A key objective of the pilot test is demonstrating ways to insure the privacy of the information shared by students with the agency and commercial service providers. Students who take part in this pilot test will use electronic identification methods, such as digital signatures and student certificates.

"The technology exists today to provide the necessary protection to conduct highly sensitive financial transactions online," said the Vice President. "Our aim in this pilot is to prove these same technologies are sufficiently secure for people to do business with the government."

Federal agencies, industry partners, and academic institutions have embraced the Access America for Students plan as a way to align resources to better serve their student customers, to eliminate duplication of effort, and to enable complete government transactions to be done over the Internet. Pilot agencies will accept confirmation from a participating university or college that a student is currently registered on campus as proof of identification needed to authorize the requested federal service. Methods used to store this proof-of-identity, making it transportable for ready reuse, will include a variety of card technologies and personal identification numbers (PINs), already in use on most of the pilot campuses.

Students at the pilot schools will have an opportunity to use three new features: (1) a single website to access government services electronically, (2) an electronic ID, and (3) a single, integrated student account.

The role of the school does not change under Access America for Students. Schools will continue their traditional role as primary point of contact for students. They will continue to determine a student's eligibility and aid package. They will continue to select their own banking partners and to receive all student aid money up front to be applied to the student account, and they will calculate and apply credit balances to student bank accounts.

Similarly, the role of the lender does not change in the new program either. Banks and other lending institutions will continue to play the vital role of providing education funds to students and working with their school partners to provide access to funds. They will continue providing campus card services, student bank accounts, and other services. And, along with the schools, lenders will play an advisory role in the development of a common process and student aid account

Pilot tests will be conducted in the fall of 1999, with plans to expand to larger demonstration projects with a larger number of campuses participating in 2000, and, to make the service available to all students with access to the Internet in 2001.

Student input as the plan was developed was essential to ensure their needs were properly addressed. Continued feedback from the testing student population will be gathering throughout the pilot to measure the initiative's effectiveness in achieving its' goals and to ensure the service evolves to match the growing needs of future college-bound students. Other customers for whom bundled electronic government services are planned include businesses, seniors, government employees, and, law enforcement. A similar series of tests will be conducted for these groups over the next two years.

Vice President Gore also reminds students that time is running out for them to consolidate their school loans at a special low interest of 7.45%.

"Students can save hundreds of dollars in interest payments by consolidating their school loans under the Education Department's direct loan program," said the Vice President.

"But they only have until January 31st -- just 16 more days -- to get their loan consolidation applications post-marked or transmitted over the World Wide Web (," Gore said.

Applications postmarked or transmitted later will be approved at a higher interest rate, one equal to the average rate of the loans being consolidated.

"The reinvented Education Department process for loan consolidation is ready to handle the last minute crush," he added. "They are already processing four times the initial volume of applications and doing it faster than loan industry standards."