Secretary DeVos Shares Vision for a Better, Stronger Federal Student Aid at Annual Training Conference
Unveils groundbreaking new NextGen customer service tools, discusses need for new structure and governance to meet growing demands
RENO, Nevada—Today, during a major speech at the annual Federal Student Aid (FSA) Conference, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos unveiled a vision for a stronger, student-centered FSA. She detailed both what FSA can and is doing now, including continued enhancements to customer service through the transformative myStudentAid app, and what requires the action of others, including improving how FSA is structured and governed.
“From submitting the FAFSA® to submitting payments; from seeing what a loan will cost over time to participating in exit counseling—we are updating everything,” said Secretary DeVos. “And we’re doing it so that students are better informed borrowers. So that students will be able to see what they owe, what they will owe, what ways they can repay what they owe, and acknowledge all of that each year before they borrow any more. Surprisingly, students will be able to do that for the first time ever. And if they do have questions—we know they do—they will be able to ask Aidan.”
Aidan, the new chatbot, will be able to answer many of the routine questions borrowers have about their loans including how to make a payment and what types of repayment plans for which they might qualify. If Aidan doesn’t have the answer, he can show customers where to find it.
To help FSA better achieve its mission, Secretary DeVos also discussed structural changes she believes would improve operations and better serve students, including that FSA become “a standalone entity, wholly and entirely separate from the U.S. Department of Education.” Such reforms are needed to better manage what has become the nation’s largest lender, with nearly $1.6 trillion in outstanding loans.
Assessing the drawbacks of FSA’s current organizational structure, Secretary DeVos said, “FSA simply cannot satisfy the ever-changing political whims of Washington.” The new proposed leadership model for FSA “is truly independent from interference, political or otherwise.”
Since taking office, Secretary DeVos has made clear that if FSA is going to be the nation’s largest private lender, it needs to function like a 21st century “world-class financial institution” that treats borrowers like the customers that they are. “We can provide students with better information,” she concluded. “We can provide students with better products. We can ignore the Siren songs of easy—very expensive and very unfair—fixes. We can get this right for students, and for our country.”