New and continuing students will be able to use new additions to the federal student aid website to become more aware of what they are borrowing and what to expect when they begin making payments after graduation.
On March 26, the Department of Education announced the addition of two new features to StudentLoans.gov in an effort to make students more financially aware of the impact of borrowing for school and to educate them about payment options.
“These tools build on the education department’s previous initiatives to carry out the presidential memorandum of June 7, 2012, which called on the secretaries of education and the treasury to improve information available to borrowers about their student loan repayment options,” said Jim Bradshaw of the Department of Education.
According to Bradshaw, these initiatives began in July 2012 when the Financial Awareness Counseling Tool (FACT) was made available to borrowers. This instructs borrowers on how to manage income and avoid default.
One new feature is Complete Counseling, a separate webpage that can be accessed from StudentLoans.gov. The tool combines multiple resources, including FACT, on one site, according to the Department of Education’s press release.
The Repayment Estimator is designed to allow borrowers to compare payment plan options using personalized data.
These tools contain little new information but focus on clearly presenting loan data in a user-friendly way.
Bradshaw said that the new design is intended to make it easier to educate oneself about loans and how to avoid default.
Laura Diven-Brown, University of Mississippi financial aid director, described how essential loans are to those continuing their education.
“Loans serve a useful purpose, because they are an investment in the future,” Diven-Brown said. “A college education leads to a better life and opens doors.”
Seph Anderson, coordinator of student loan operations at Ole Miss, said that this “standardized presentation” on the federal website is a benefit to the borrowers.
“The counseling every borrower had was entrance and exit counseling,” Anderson said. “Now with the new additions, borrowers can access tools designed specifically for financial counseling.”
Anderson said that the design is directed at the people who will be using it by utilizing a variety of mediums, such as a video, to ensure clarity.
“What is great about the way they have the counseling set up is it makes you sit down and input your own information, so you estimate what it is for you, and it allows you to think about it,” Anderson said.
After hearing about the available tools, Southern studies graduate student Chelsea Wright expressed positive sentiments.
“That would be pretty easy,” Wright said.
Diven-Brown said that while the Department of Education is making federal aid easier to understand, face-to-face counseling is still available on campus through the Office of Financial Aid.
“We want to do everything we can to help,” Diven-Brown said.