Recap Of APIs At Dept of Education, And The FAFSA API

My work on APIs for the Department of Education, and the FAFSA API began while I was working in Washington DC as a Presidential Innovation Fellow. Shortly after leaving DC, I was informed that conversations around an API for the FAFSA had been put on back-burner, and in response I developed a prototype FAFSA API to help jumpstart the conversation.

In December 2013, I went to one of the two data jams put on my the White House and Dept of Education, up in Palo Alto, CA at Stanford. Then, in January 2014 I heard there was talk at the secretary level, about officially pursuing a FAFSA API. Yay! By February I got an email that there was an opportunity for funding such an initiative, if there was a technical specification available. Three days layer I finished a couple of options, which ultimately resulted in a draft technical proposal for a possible FAFSA API.

I’ve heard nothing about the outcome of these efforts. I provided some thoughts on APIs in general, in June of 2014, in repose to their RFI, but beyond that it has been radio silence at Department of Education when it comes to a FAFSA API. Granted, I’m not pursuing this, but when it comes to FAFSA API discussion, I own the SEO conversation, so if it came up, I’m sure someone would ping me.

I have no confidence that the Department of Education will pursue a FAFSA API. My motivations around contributing to the conversations stem from a desire to jumpstart investment from both the public, and the private sector. While jumpstarting conversations in the federal government, I was hoping I could also jumpstart the development, and deployment of a federated FAFSA API, which in turn would apply pressure on the federal government to participate. Doing this is not trivial, and a cause that needs a champion or full time evangelist—I’m not your man.

The FAFSA API is an excellent example of the technology, business, and politics of APIs, something that is more art, than science. If it is going to become a thing, I think it has to happen inversely to the way the IRS ecosystem has occurred, from the outside in. I just don’t have confidence that the Department of Education can own this one, I think multiple leaders from the private sector have to make it happen, get private sector buy-in, then convince the Department of Ed to play nicely in a federated FAFSA API ecosystem.

Which is no small task.

P.S. This post is meant to help several groups understand where I am at with the FAFSA API. I just posted a round of updates directly to my FAFSA API research, as well as my overall Dept of Education research.