Federal Student Aid - IFAP
   

Publication Date: October 6, 2006

Author: G. Kay Jacks, General Manager, Application, Operations and Delivery Services, Federal Student Aid

Summary: HERA Operational Implementation Guidance (CPS, COD System, and EDExpress Suite)--COD HERA-Related Testing for 2006-2007 Award Year

Posted on 10-06-2006

As schools, third party servicers, and software vendors are aware, on December 16, 2006, we will implement the fourth release of Common Origination and Disbursement (COD) System functionality required to implement the provisions of the Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2005 (the HERA), Pub. L. 109-171. The implementation of this functionality will support the acceptance of records for Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) and National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (National SMART Grant) awards. This implementation requires changes to the COD Common Record Extensible Markup Language (XML) schema, and it is important to us that we offer and conduct testing for participants before they send data to the "live" production environment.

The purposes of this announcement are as follows:

1. To inform schools, third party servicers, and software vendors of an early end to Unstructured Testing for the 2006-2007 Award Year.

2. To highlight the plan and process for HERA School Testing offered in conjunction with the December 16th implementation.

We cover information in the following order:

  • Earlier End Date for Unstructured Testing for 2006-2007 Award Year: October 20, 2006
  • HERA School Testing Period for 2006-2007 Award Year: November 1, 2006 - April 13, 2007
  • Contact Information

Note: COD School Testing for the 2007-2008 Award Year will begin in January 2007. We will provide the details of this testing effort in a forthcoming Electronic Announcement on the IFAP Web site.

Earlier End Date for Unstructured Testing for 2006-2007 Award Year: October 20, 2006

As provided in an Electronic Announcement posted on November 28, 2005 and in the 2006-2007 COD Technical Reference, Unstructured Testing for the 2006-2007 Award Year was scheduled for the period April 10, 2006 through November 30, 2006. To accommodate pre-implementation testing of the December 16th HERA-related COD System functionality, we must end the Unstructured Testing period earlier than scheduled on Friday, October 20, 2006.

We apologize for any inconvenience this schedule change causes schools, third party servicers, and software vendors. If a school or organization is in the process of completing Unstructured Testing, please work with the COD School Testing Support Team to complete the testing by 8:00 P.M. (ET) on October 20th.

HERA School Testing Period for 2006-2007 Award Year: November 1, 2006 - April 13, 2007

In conjunction with the December 16th implementation of COD functionality that will support the acceptance of records for ACG and National SMART Grant awards, the COD School Relations Center will conduct HERA School Testing for the 2006-2007 Award Year from November 1, 2006 through April 13, 2007. The purpose of HERA School Testing is to provide schools, third party servicers, and software vendors an opportunity to test Federal Pell Grant (Pell Grant), William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan), ACG, and National SMART Grant business processes and system software with the COD System prior to the transmission and processing of actual production data.

HERA School Testing will enable simpler, faster, and less costly issue identification and resolution in a low-volume, controlled test environment. It will also allow schools, third party servicers, and software vendors the opportunity to make corrections or enhancements to software applications and processes prior to sending data to the "live" production environment. The goal of HERA School Testing is to make the transmission of production data smoother and reduce the risk of production problems.

All entities that wish to participate in HERA School Testing must submit the "HERA School Testing 2006-2007 Sign-Up Document" to the COD School Relations Center. The sign-up document is located in the HERA School Testing Guide, Volume V, Section 3 of the 2006-2007 COD Technical Reference posted on the IFAP Web site and is also available on the COD Web site by clicking on the "Click here if you are looking for more information on Common Origination and Disbursement." link.

The following questions and answers provide useful high-level information about HERA School Testing for the 2006-2007 Award Year:

Who should participate in HERA School Testing for the 2006-2007 Award Year?

HERA School Testing is available to all entities that participate in COD processing. Schools are not required to complete HERA School Testing, but are encouraged to participate in Phase I testing.

Software providers and third party servicers may perform their own product testing on behalf of their customers. For example, the Department of Education will test the EDExpress software before releasing it to schools. Schools should contact their software provider or third party servicer to discuss testing plans/concerns.

What are the testing phases?

School testing is comprised of two phases-Phase I for Common Record Manual Verification and Phase II for Structured Application Testing. Schools must complete Phase I testing before participating in Phase II testing. There will be no optional Unstructured Testing.

Phase I - Common Record Manual Verification

The purpose of Common Record Manual Verification testing is to ensure that the school's COD XML Common Record is well formed and properly structured according to the rules of the COD XML Common Record Schema Version 2.0e.

During this testing phase, the COD School Testing Support Team manually reviews a Common Record document that the school e-mails to the COD School Relations Center and assists the school in the identification of potential updates to its Common Record submissions. This testing phase will be available from November 1, 2006 through April 13, 2007.

Phase II - Structured Application Testing

The purpose of Structured Application Testing is to ensure that a school can send, receive, and process batches of records using comprehensive input instructions with detailed expected results issued by COD. The school uses a test Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR) file supplied by COD that creates a test data set of students to use with the structured test cases.

During this phase, the school sends Common Record documents to the COD System and receives Receipt and Response documents back from the COD System. The school must verify that these files can be loaded and processed correctly in its system.

This testing phase will be available from January 8, 2007 through April 13, 2007. To participate in Phase II testing, a school must complete Phase I testing first. If a school completes Phase I testing before January 8, 2007, it must wait until the Phase II testing window opens.

How does a school sign up for HERA School Testing?

A school registers for testing by completing the "HERA School Testing 2006-2007 Sign-Up Document" located in the HERA School Testing Guide, Volume V, Section 3 of the 2006-2007 COD Technical Reference posted on the IFAP Web site or on the COD Web site by clicking on the "Click here if you are looking for more information on Common Origination and Disbursement." link. As explained in the sign-up document, the school may register to participate in Phase I testing or in both Phase I and Phase II testing. In either case, the school must sign up by March 2, 2007.

Once completed, the sign-up document should be submitted to the COD School Relations Center by faxing it to 877/623-5082 or e-mailing it to CODsupport@acs-inc.com with "School Testing Signup" in the subject line. After the sign-up document is received, the COD School Relations Center will contact the school via e-mail to obtain school-specific information and to schedule specific test dates with the school.

Note: Upon receipt of the sign-up document, the COD School Testing Support Team must complete a considerable setup process to establish the school in the COD test environment before testing can begin. This process may take several weeks to complete. A school should take this setup process into account when planning to participate in HERA School Testing and provide enough lead time in its schedule.

Contact Information

If you have questions about this announcement, contact the COD School Relations Center at 800/848-0978 or 800/4PGRANT (800/474-7268) and ask for COD School Testing Support. You can also e-mail CODsupport@acs-inc.com with "COD School Testing Support" in the subject line.