Search This Blog

Monday, January 21, 2013

A window on history

A recent post by Funds for Learning, pointing out that the pace of filing of Forms 471 in the first 37 days of the window this year is about a third of last year, made me realize I hadn't posted an update of my usual table of ESL (Eligible Services List) and filing window dates.  So here it is:

FY  ESL release   Window open   60 days?   Window close   Window days 
 2005   10/14/2004 12/14/2004 61 2/17/2005 65
2006 11/22/2005 12/6/2005 14 2/16/2006 72
2007 10/19/2006 11/14/2006 26 2/7/2007 85
2008 10/19/2007 11/7/2007 19 2/7/2008 92
2009 11/21/2008 12/2/2008 11 2/12/2009 72
2010 12/2/2009 12/3/2009 1 2/11/2010 70
2011 12/6/2010 1/11/2011 36 3/24/2011 72
2012 9/28/2011 1/9/2012 103 3/20/2012 71
2013 9/27/2012 12/12/2012 76 3/14/2013 92

A couple of quick comments:
  1. Hey a new record for earliest release date of the ESL!  Yippee!
  2. And for the second year in a row, the FCC has met their own deadline of releasing the ESL at least 60 days before opening the window.  This could become a habit. [The 4th column in the table shows the number of days between the release of the ESL and the opening of the window.]
  3. We tied the previous record for longest window.  Not the way Mel wanted to go, and I have to say that the longer window doesn't help applicants that much.  As FFL's analysis shows, few applicants took advantage of the days in December.  A longer window is really only useful if application review were quicker; you could theoretically get your funding rejected early in the window, then fix whatever the problem was, and restart the process from scratch and get a second 471 in before the end of the window.  Hey, I can dream, can't I?
  4. The window close date is creeping earlier.  I think that's bad news.  As I've said before, I think the window should close in May.
The analysis I'd like to see goes the opposite direction of FFL's: we're now 52 days from the end of the window.  How many 471s were filed 52 days from the end of the window last year, as opposed to how many have been filed this year?  That would show whether applicants are taking any advantage of the earlier start.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

50 shades of pink

What matter is so vital that it could tear me away to make a blog post in the heat of the filing window?  The color of the paper USAC is using, of course.

Long-time readers will know that I have long extolled the virtues of USAC's color-coded letters, and pined for a return to matching colored envelopes.  Yesterday we got a stack of RNLs (Really Nuisancy Letters), and while preparing to file this useless correspondence, our intrepid CSR noted that the pages were different colors.  At least it was not a repeat of the 2007 RAL salmon envelope horror, or the subsequent pink-FCDLs-in-blue-envelopes apocalypse, but some of the letters were kind of a washed-out pink.

Who is on color quality control over at USAC?  Whoever it is, s/he should get on 3 matters urgently:
  1. Ensure consistency of color.  Pink seems to be the biggest trouble area, so the focus should be there in the short term.
  2. Bring back colored envelopes.  We need to bring this program back to its former greatness.  Color-coded envelopes were a proud tradition of this program from the time color-coding was started, so we shouldn't accept a watered-down version of all the useless letters we get from USAC.
  3. Make those recalcitrants over in invoicing get with the program.  I want my BEAR notifications color-coded.
Less urgently, how about putting another color or two in the rotation?  Because letters from 3 funding years ago aren't that unusual, so there's some overlap.

We need a new USAC department on this.  Color Integrity Assurance?  Or maybe we just expand an existing department.   Trainings, Outreach and Hue?

By the way, kudos to the Michigan Department of Education for creating a historical list of the colors used.  Please update it, though.  And please change the pink color; you'd think #FF9999 would be pink, but it's really salmon.  #FF99FF would be a better choice.  While you're at it, I'd lighten the blue to #0099FF and the yellow to #FFFF66.  Easier on the eyes and closer to the actual color of the paper.