Changes are coming federal student loan program in 2019 when the current loan contracts expire. If you are currently paying back your federal loans or will be borrowing money in the near future, it’s important to learn how the federal student loan changes will affect you. Don’t worry too much, you still be able to get a federal student loan if you need one.
What Isn’t Changing
Before we discuss what will be changing in 2019, let’s quickly review what will remain the same.
The U.S. Department of Education Will Continue to Issue Student Loans
During the 2016 Presidential election, there had been talk of abolishing federal student loans. The federal loan student program isn’t going anywhere and you will still be able to borrow money for your undergraduate and graduate education.
Fixed Interest Rates
Federal student loans will continue to have fixed interest rates. These interest rates will continue to be determined on an annual basis for the next academic year beginning July 1.
Multiple Loan Servicers
The current student loan servicing contracts expire in 2019. One of the original proposals from Education Secretary DeVos was to reduce the number of federal student loan servicers to a single company instead of having nine current companies
That plan has been scrapped after receiving much bipartisan criticism as naysayers said it would create a “$1 trillion bank” and would also monopolize the student loan industry as the one company would handle the payments for approximately $1.4 trillion in student loans from 44 million borrowers.
Just like today, your loan will be serviced by one of nine companies. While the U.S. Department of Education will still issue the loan, you will make all your student loan payments to one of these companies.
What Is Changing?
Now let’s look at what is changing to the federal student loan program in 2019.
One Loan Payment Website
Currently, you might have to visit several different websites to make your federal student loan payments. This can be especially true if you have different varieties of federal loans or different loan servicers.
By 2019, Secretary DeVos wants to streamline the payment websites to a single payment platform. Regardless of your loan servicer(s) or federal loan types, you will make all payments on the same website.
This can make it easier to track your payment due dates and your total outstanding balance. As an added benefit, it will be harder to overlook a payment and be charged a late fee that results in a damaged credit score.
Improved Customer Service
While you will hopefully never have to contact the Federal Student Loan Customer Service department, it might not be a pleasant experience.
While you can currently contact an ombudsman to review your student loan disputes, the process can be tedious and time-consuming.
Switching to a single website should help alleviate many of the payment issues and confusion that require customer support. The Department of Education also wants to introduce new resources to help prevent any potential disputes and to also speed up the time it takes to resolve current disputes.
Save Taxpayers Money
These changes can save up to $130 million in tax dollars because of increased efficiency. Having a single website and better customer service means fewer hours and dollars resolving disputes for late payments, missing paperwork, and general complaints.
In addition to saving money, the lending and repayment experience can be much more pleasant for student borrowers and their families.
How Else To Prepare for the Student Loan Changes
What else can you do to prepare for the upcoming student loan changes?
One of the best ways is to borrow as little money as possible to pay for college. Our 12 Tips to Pay For College Without Going Broke can help you not take a loan in the first place. Having the blessing of not being required to borrow money means that the upcoming changes won’t affect you at all.
You can also financially prepare for college in high school. Don’t wait for the student loan program changes to go into effect before you start planning. The best asset you have as a future college student (or parent) is time.
If you are already a college student with federal loans, follow these steps:
- Track all your student loan balances in one place
- Know when you need to begin making principal and interest payments
- Apply for the FAFSA as soon as possible each year to secure a financial aid package
- If you have a dispute, immediately contact an ombudsman
Essentially, treat your student loans like your regular monthly bills. Whether or not the Department of Education implements the changes, you are still responsible for your student loans. Complete any payment, paperwork, or counseling as required to keep your accounts in good standing.
While the federal student loan changes have received a lot of attention, there isn’t much to be worried about. You will still be able to borrow money when needed. The only difference is that it gets a little easier to manage your accounts and payments in 2019 which can make it easier to manage your money.