The U.S. Education Department (ED) on Monday announced upgrades to its student aid website that it says will improve the customer experience.
StudentAid.gov now includes new tools that provide students with detailed information about grants and loans that they have received — including the type, date received, repayment plan and interest rate — and allow borrowers to see their progress toward repaying the loans.
The site also provides guidance for a loan repayment plan. The “loan simulator” function combines information entered by borrowers, such as earnings and family composition, with loan data provided by ED’s financial aid office, to develop personalized repayment options that include the lowest monthly payment, fastest payoff term or lowest amount paid overall.
In addition, the department launched a pilot program that for the first time allows a select group of student loan borrowers to make loan payments directly on the website. Borrowers whose federally managed loans are in repayment and assigned to servicers Great Lakes or Nelnet can now participate in the “Make a Payment” pilot. The program allows borrowers to schedule upcoming monthly payments on StudentAid.gov. Eventually, all direct loan borrowers will be able to repay their loans through the website, according to the department.
“Students deserve to be treated like the unique and valued customers they are,” U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a press release, adding that “Congress created a cumbersome and confusing web of loan and repayment options” that the department aims to simplify and streamline.
ED said the website upgrades are the first of several this year to improve the user experience. The department also noted the upgrades are part of its continued effort to modernize its student aid services, noting the recently launched myStudentAid mobile app and updating the College Scorecard with previously unavailable data, such as program-level debt and earnings data.
ED said the upgrades complement the president’s fiscal year 2021 budget proposal, which aims to simplify student loan types, amounts and repayment options. DeVos is scheduled to testify before the House education appropriations panel on Thursday regarding the administration’s proposed budget, which would include significant cuts for many federally funded education programs.