Are you having trouble managing student loans? Or, are you already behind in debt payments? In time for the new, 2012 school year, the United States Department of Education has released a new, interactive loan counseling tool. The Financial Awareness Counseling Tool provides students with financial management basics, like information about their current loan debt and estimates for student loan debt levels after graduation. It meshes with tools and resources designed to facilitate the process of planning and managing the cost of higher education for the nation’s families and students.
Access and special programs
Students can access the new resource, the Financial Awareness Counseling Tool, on the Student Loans.gov website. The website offers information about student financial aid programs, information on loan consolidations, and information on programs such as Teacher Loan Forgiveness and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan indicates, “Managing student loan debt can be a difficult and confusing process for many borrowers. That’s why the Obama Administration has been working to unravel the mystery of college financing and arm students and parents with the information they need to make smart educational choices.” He further states, “Students need to know up front how much college will actually cost them instead of waiting to find out when the first student loan bill arrives. This new tool will help bring new transparency to the process of debt management on the front end and empower students to keep their school loan payments on track and on time after graduation.”
Knowledge is power, and the Financial Awareness Counseling Tool provides students with five, interactive tutorials covering topics ranging from managing a budget to avoiding default. Students are able to access their individual loan history and receive personalized feedback that can help them better understand their financial obligations. In addition, college financial aid professionals can monitor a student’s progress in using the tool and provide assistance if necessary to help ensure they can utilize the information the site provides.
The administration of President Barack Obama is pressing forward with an ongoing effort to make college costs more transparent for education consumers. To increase informed decision-making, the United States Department of Education has published data including its annual college cost lists, which detail schools with the highest and lowest published sticker price, schools with the highest net price once grants and scholarships are factored in, and those schools where prices are rising the fastest. That critical information is available as part of the United States Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center.
In the coming weeks, the Administration is set to release its model financial aid shopping sheet. The shopping sheet, which the Administration will encourage all institutions of higher education to voluntarily adopt, will tell prospective students how much aid they will receive in grants and scholarships; how much they’ll need to borrow in student loans; the difference between private loans and federal student loans; and the average student loan payment after graduation.
Achieving the dream
The smart achievement of college dreams is important. Dreams are the touchstones of human society, and policies inherent in a democratic, equitable society need to maintain dreaming’s rich opportunities. Strategic budgeting and management are part of the achievement of the 21st century dream of higher education for families and students throughout America. They remember American poet Langston Hughes’ wisdom: “Hold fast to dreams/For if dreams die/Life is a broken-winged bird.” For many families and students, the transparency and assistance of Federal Student Aid programs bring wings to heartfelt dreams.
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