Case Study

Communications Management for the U.S. Department of Education Office of Federal Student Aid

Challenge: The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) faced two key challenges in maintaining high levels of engagement for both internal and external stakeholders in a rapidly shifting federal student aid environment. First, FSA needed improved communication tools to foster collaboration, share documentation, and limit redundant data calls supporting multiple concurrent system modernizations. Second, FSA communicators and project and product leads needed to maintain timely and consistent message alignment across communication channels to keep stakeholders, institutional partners, and the public updated on FSA’s implementation of the Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act and the FAFSA Simplification Act.

Solution: To centralize knowledge management, the Summit team evaluated current internal information needs across the organization to better align priorities and bridge any knowledge gaps, including dependencies and risks that would delay the modernization of systems that enable Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) processing. This involved a content migration of more than 1,000 SharePoint pages across 20-plus project workstreams to a centralized secure knowledge management portal. Our team’s migration and centralization of four internal and two external sites facilitated improvements for agency staff and external audiences by unifying information sharing onto a single SharePoint-based collaboration site. This site continues to serve as a nexus for FSA teams to collaborate and coordinate projects using centralized knowledge management with version control for more than 3,000 documents and controlled access for over 100 users.

Result: The Summit team’s communications management support enables large-scale collaboration crucial to successfully capturing dependencies and risks and maintaining project schedules under competing agency priorities. Through the launch of the knowledge management portal and development of collateral and training (“Getting to Know” sessions, monthly brown bags, and newsletters), our team ensures coordinated and intentional stakeholder alignment with modernization priorities. Additionally, our digital project dashboards and analytics trackers have given FSA staff streamlined project tracking tools for external communications with detailed reporting capabilities, which has saved staff time and improved FSA’s ability to validate schedules and track the progress of creative vendors. With our team’s support, FSA’s external campaigns, such as the FAFSA renewal and return to repayment related to the student loan payment pause, successfully reached 16 million students, parents, and borrowers.

This project has been funded at least in part with federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education under contract number 91003119A0008. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. government.