Two days after the official launch of the student loan forgiveness application, advocates representing borrowers are giving the online process a passing grade.
They are praising the simple, online form and noted the application site so far has not crashed, which happened to the Federal Student Aid (FSA) website soon after President Joe Biden announced up to $20,000 in student loan forgiveness in August.
“Borrowers have told me that the application is easy to navigate and quick to complete on their phone, tablets, or on their computers,” Kyra Taylor, a staff attorney for the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), told Yahoo Money. “I wish other applications for administrative relief — like borrower defense, closed school discharge, and total and permanent disability discharges — were this easy for borrowers to navigate.”
Still, some improvements could be made for borrowers with technology issues, those living overseas, and those who are transgender.
The Biden administration promised a simple, easy application for borrowers to use on their computers or mobile devices. Over the weekend, ED launched a beta version of the application before officially launching the portal on Monday at the FSA website: https://studentaid.gov/debt-relief/application.
“[Education Secretary Cardona] and his team led a talented group of data scientists and engineers across the federal government and built and tested and launched this new application in just weeks,” Biden said at a press briefing Monday. “And the Secretary insisted that it had to be tested over the weekend. It landed and handled more than 8 million applications without a glitch or any difficulty.”
The online form asks borrowers to provide their name, Social Security number, date of birth, phone number, and email. Borrowers won't need to upload any documents or log in with a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID.
“Overall, people seem surprised and delighted it was actually easy to fill out,” Thomas Gokey, policy director at Debt Collective, told Yahoo Money.
After submitting the application, borrowers should receive a confirmation email. ED will contact borrowers by email if additional information is needed. The borrower will also receive notification when the application is approved and sent to the loan servicer. The loan servicer will then notify the borrower when the debt relief has been applied and if there is a new payment based on any remaining loan balance.
“The feedback thus far has been overwhelmingly positive,” Cody Hounanian, executive director at the Student Debt Crisis Center (SDCC), told Yahoo Money. “Borrowers have told us that it takes less than five minutes to fill out and none have contacted us to ask about the information being requested on the form.”
Still, the process is not without some bumps.
For instance, Hounanian has heard from some borrowers who can’t get the form to work properly because of their web browser, which is often resolved by using another browser or updating their current one.
Some borrowers who live outside of the U.S. have also reported they can’t access the form. Borrowers have shared work-around tips on social media, recommending that those living overseas use a VPN to access the site. But that doesn’t always work, Gokey said.
Although the form allows borrowers to flag a former last name, it doesn’t allow flagging for former first names, a concern raised by transgender borrowers, Gokey added.
If borrowers have a name change, they should include the name they believe they have on file with their loan servicer and Federal Student Aid office. To update a name change, borrowers should log into studentaid.gov with their FSA ID.
Finally, advocates want the administration to quickly follow up with a paper application for those borrowers who don’t have easy access to the internet or don’t have a reliable email address.
“This goes to show that the online-only application has limitations,” Hounanian said. “Those who are not tech savvy, older borrowers, and lower-income borrowers will benefit greatly from a paper application. It is our understanding that ED is working on this as well.”
Ronda is a personal finance senior reporter for Yahoo Money and attorney with experience in law, insurance, education, and government. Follow her on Twitter @writesronda