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Focus on Regulation

U.S. Department of Education Launches New Feedback System for Federal Student Aid

shutterstock_404189200On July 1, the U.S. Department of Education (“ED”) launched the Federal Student Aid Feedback System, an online portal that allows federal student aid customers to submit complaints, provide positive feedback, and report allegations of suspicious activity regarding the federal student aid programs. The Feedback System was identified as a primary objective of the “Student Aid Bill of Rights” proposed by President Obama in March of 2015.

This new feedback system is part of a larger effort by ED to enhance its oversight and enforcement capabilities with regards to student loan borrowing. Although it does not create any new requirements for institutions participating in the federal student financial aid programs, the feedback system will provide new avenues for customers to alert ED about potential compliance issues or misconduct.

The Feedback System permits users—including students, parents, and others—to submit several types of feedback:

  • Complaints about applying for and receiving federal loans, grants, and work study; federal loan servicing; and the collection of defaulted loans.
    • According to ED, users may also submit complaints about an institution’s administration of federal student aid programs, including misrepresentation relating to the institution or the institution’s recruitment and marketing practices.
    • ED has said the Feedback System should not be used to submit complaints about private loans; users who wish to file such complaints are directed to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
    • In addition, the Feedback System is not designed to be used for complaints unrelated to federal student aid, such as complaints about academic policies, grades, or faculty.
  • Information about “suspicious activity” related to an institution or person that the user believes has violated federal laws regarding federal student aid.  In connection with such reports, ED will protect the user’s identity consistent with the Department of Labor’s Whistleblower Protection Program.
  • Positive feedback about an institution, ED, or a federal loan servicer.

Users who authenticate their submission using a valid Federal Student Aid ID may access chat support and online case management.  Users who do not submit a FSA ID may include their contact information with their feedback. Anonymous users may submit information but will not have access to any follow-up or case resolution support.

ED plans to use the feedback system to identify and improve operational issues with FSA programs. ED may contact institutions directly as part of the case resolution process. Additionally, ED will publish annual reports on the FSA Data Center summarizing the information received through the feedback system.

Data will also be shared with partner agencies including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network. Those agencies might use that information to help resolve complaints that lay beyond the scope of ED oversight, such as complaints involving private student loans.

Ray Li, a summer associate in our Washington, D.C. office, also contributed to this post.