When it comes to student loan repayment, no option seems simple. Today, the total amount of student loan debt stands at $1.3 trillion and is essentially the highest form of debt in the United States. Many graduates feel that pinch, so it doesn’t help when so many options to pay it back aren’t clear.
However, the Department of Education is currently working on an entirely new web portal. Announced last month, the goal of this portal is to simplify and consolidate all repayments into one place. This system will work both ways too, having a comprehensive management plan for both new borrowers and those in repayment.
As it stands, the current method is handled by management under the Department of Education. The DE contract servicers like Sallie Mae or Great Lakes Borrowers to handle student loans, which can lead to plenty of confusion. Borrowers know they owe the Department of Education but instead get statements and bills from one of the providers. Additionally, when having to renew for programs like IDR (income-driven repayment), borrowers must navigate from the handler, to the Department’s website, to the IRS, and so on.
The process, economists are finding, can be harmful to borrowers. This harm occurs because payment is given to the handlers, which remits this to the Department of Education. Since this can take time, many borrowers have reported unexpected fees, damage to their credit, and even being in default when they were in fact on time. Having a one stop place to pay a monthly bill versus the exchange of many places will reduce these issues, economists added.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also had reports of varying service through each repayment platform. Too many inconsistent scenarios of late payments or confusion have created a needlessly complicated situation, they said. From these reports, the Department of Education wants to create a uniform approach to customer service. Centralizing student debt to one site should alleviate these numerous issues, they hope.
As for the actual web portal, it’s expected to release at some point this year, but will take some time. It’s also unclear how many will be able to utilize the service, as they are already ingrained with their current borrowers. Is it for everyone, or only for new student loan borrowers? The question will have to be answered once the site is up. Until then, the Department recommends keeping up to date with their respective handlers to ensure smooth repayment.