Today, the U.S. Department of Education announced a new streamlined website and several social media tools that will make it easier for students and families to navigate the financial aid process and make informed decisions about paying for college. The launch of the new website, StudentAid.gov, follows a report from the U.S. Department of Education and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about consumer protection issues with private student loans and recommendations to improve the student loan marketplace.
“We want to give students and parents the information they need to make smart and affordable education choices. A big part of that is educating people on the most affordable way to finance a college education: federal student aid,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “This new, easy-to-understand website will help families better navigate the process of planning and paying for college. And it will help students manage their loan payments after they graduate so they avoid falling into default.”
The new website, along with the Financial Awareness Counseling Tool that launched last week, serves as the Department’s response to President Obama’s June 7 directive to enhance online and mobile resources for loan repayment options and debt management. StudentAid.gov is the first step in a multi-phase project to provide consumers with a one-stop website where they can access federal student aid information, apply for federal aid, repay student loans and navigate the college decision-making process. The site combines content from several Department websites and presents the information in a straight-forward manner – and it is designed to be fully accessible on tablets and smartphones. In addition, the Department has revamped its Federal Student Aid social media sites, including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, to provide more options for students to learn about student aid.
Also included on StudentAid.gov is the Student Loan Debt Collection Assistant, an interactive tool designed to help borrowers who have fallen behind on their federal or private student loan payments. The tool was developed in partnership with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and is also available through the CFPB’s site. For borrowers who have missed payments but are not yet in default, this tool can help them avoid thousands of dollars in penalties and fees by helping them access an alternative payment plan. For borrowers already in default on their federal student loans, this tool offers an added benefit – clear information on how to access the full range of special repayment options available to federal student loan borrowers. The tool also provides tips to borrowers with private student loans on how to