Illinois system helps students find schools

The Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities unveiled a free, Internet-based information system on Tuesday to help prospective students find their future school among the group's 58 member institutions.

The new World Wide Web site (www.illinoismentor.org) enables users to take a multimedia virtual campus tour, match their interests with specific schools, establish e-mail contact with campus representatives and perform scholarship searches.

Students also can apply for admission and financial aid at any of the federation's member schools through the site.

The idea for a Web presence came out of a meeting with federation members last year, said Don Fouts, president of the federation. "The new reality of the Internet prompted us to look for and find ways to use it, especially for recruitment and the application process," Fouts said.

Students soon will be able to get a head start on filing their free application for federal student aid through the Illinois site and others developed by XAP Corp., said Allen Firstenberg, president and chief executive officer of Los Angeles-based XAP. "The Department of Education has already approved Illinois, Texas, New York and the California state system, which allows the students financial aid data to be automatically transferred to the federal form."

The Illinois site cost nearly $500,000 and was designed, operated and paid for by XAP, which specializes in Internet-based student services. Firstenberg said operational and maintenance will cost about $300,000 annually, making the five-year contract a multimillion-dollar venture.

"XAP is responsible for getting sponsors that have products and services of interest to students," Firstenberg said, adding that this is also how the company draws revenue. The Student Loan Corp., a subsidiary of Citibank, already has signed on in Illinois.

Firstenberg said XAP operates mentor sites in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Texas and California. A statewide site in New York is scheduled to go up on Nov. 1.

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