The Department of Education has announced the release of two new tools on its StudentLoans.gov website to help guide college students in the loan application and payment process. The Complete Counseling tool walks students through the whole student loan process, from entrance to exit.
It also counsels them on what they call financial awareness. The other new tool is the Repayment Estimator, which lets students look at seven different loan repayment options and the expected monthly payments.
In the press release announcing the tools, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says that they were designed to give students the information they need to gain control of the loan repayment process. “Our goal is to make the entire challenge of college costs much less daunting, and these tools are additional steps in that direction,” he says.
The new Complete Counseling tool explains the entire loan counseling process, from entrance counseling to exit counseling. It also offers counseling for current students who want to know how to better manage their finances or need help to understand their financial aid. The tool enables students to learn what they need to know about the student loan process in short sessions that last between 20 and 30 minutes.
The Complete Counseling site is still a work in progress and the Education Department is planning to release an updated version of the site later this year. In a statement from its press office, the Education Department says that it wanted to release the tool right away to help 2013 graduates manage their student loans, even though it is still receiving user feedback.
The Repayment Estimator gives students a quick comparison of each of the seven repayment options. Students can click on a particular option to find out the full details. On the main page of the Repayment Estimator they can learn basic information about each one, such as the time frame for repayment and a list of eligible loans.
The quick comparison section of the Repayment Estimator empowers students to choose a repayment option that best fits their personal circumstance and capabilities. It shows that the Graduated Repayment Plan, for instance, allows students to pay a smaller amount at the start of their repayment and then the monthly payment increases over time, typically going up every two years. The Repayment Calculator also offers a Pay As You Earn plan, which takes into account discretionary income and family size. In this plan, the student’s payment changes as his or her income changes.
Federal student loan borrowers can access both the Complete Counseling and Repayment Estimator tools by logging into their accounts at StudentLoans.gov.