“The only constant in life is change” — Heraclitus
This saying is 100% correct, especially with the federal student loan system. This time though, I would say that the recent changes you may have seen to studentloans.gov, fsaid.ed.gov and nslds.ed.gov are positive.
This text has been the header of studentaid.gov website recently. Navigating the different sites used to be very confusing for borrowers (and even us student loan experts) to know where to go to achieve different goals or tasks.
The loan consolidation and income-driven repayment (IDR) applications used to be through studentloans.gov, but you had to download your federal file from nslds.ed.gov. Studentaid.gov used to be for FAFSA applications and information on all federal aid, which made you think that’s where you’d complete consolidation and IDR applications, but it wasn’t and didn’t even really include a link to do so; therefore, you had a little bit of running around to do. Now, however, all student loan and debt aid resources are offered in one place: studentaid.gov.
The new studentaid.gov now has these resources in a single, more user-friendly site:
- Student loan consolidation
- Entrance counseling and exit counseling
- Master Promissory Note
- PLUS loan applications
- Income-driven repayment plan application
The most recent change was over the weekend of February 23rd, 2020: The National Student Loan Data Systems website (nslds.gov) — which is the U.S. Department of Education’s central database for student aid — This seems to be the last “merge” of separate websites to studentaid.gov. You can download your most accurate, up-to-date information on all of your federal loans through the “My Aid” page by clicking on “My Aid Data.” This information is what we typically ask our clients to reference to verify information on loan codes and types, loan origination dates, and other information pertinent to our recommendations.
These more recent changes are not the first of improvements to the federal student aid system. Back in March 2019, there were updates to the FSA ID log-in system. Students (or their parents with Parent PLUS loans) used to have to enter the username attached to their FSA ID to log into their account.
“FSA has improved this process by allowing the user to register their phone number to their account and use that number in the place of a username. Once a student or parent registers their phone number, they can use it to reset their password, unlock their FSA ID account, or retrieve their username,” according to Megan Walter, policy and federal relations staff.
I always joke about how logging into all of these accounts is the most difficult part of the process in starting one’s repayment journey because, keep in mind, these are changes to the federal system itself. You still have your own unique login to your servicer’s website to service and make payments on your loans through Nelnet, Navient, Fedloan, etc.
Some other notable improvements to this March 2019 change, according to Walter, included:
- Removing the requirement for passwords to be changed every 18 months
- Removing the requirement to include special characters in passwords
- Lockout warnings when an incorrect password has been used a certain number of times
- Warnings when email addresses that may have access expiration dates associated with them (e.g. .edu, .k12, etc.) are used as the account’s primary email address
With that said, I think these changes are positive and help make an already very confusing system just a tad more simplified so that borrowers can find information they need to complete certain tasks.
A small disclaimer here: The National Student Loan Data Systems website (nslds.gov) — which is the U.S. Department of Education’s central database for student aid — is still active and separate from studentaid.gov. This site is where you can download your most accurate, up-to-date information on all of your federal loans. This site is also what we use to verify information on loan codes and types, loan origination dates, and other information for our consulting. Stay tuned for an update on whether this site will be looped into the new studentaid.gov website consolidation or not. As of right now though, it seems to be unaffected.