New Direct Loan Servicing Site’s Technical Issues Causes Student Concerns

Earlier this month, the US Department of Education’s Federal Student Loan Servicing Center changed their website to

Students attempting to pay their federal student loans through the new website on October 5, 2011 were unable to access the new website. Those who called customer service were told that they could either mail a check, or that they could wait until the new website was up on October 10. Students were also told they would not be charged a late fee or penalized by waiting until the tenth.

When students attempted to log-on on October 10, they were presented with slow loading pages that resolved to an error page, saying “An error has occurred and has been logged, please try again later.” As students attempted to access the site on the eleventh and twelfth, the new website indicated that the site was down for maintenance and would be available “October 10th at 8:00am.”

As of October 12, 2011 at 6:25 pm Eastern time, the website still will not allow students to log in to manage their account or pay their bills online. Calls to the customer service number at 6 pm either rang busy or were answered by a recording indicating that the “Your call cannot be completed at this time, please try again later.” Some students were able to get through by dialing the toll-free number, others who dialed the direct number available for international callers were able to get through after numerous attempts, only to be told that there is an “unusually high call volume” and that the wait time to speak to a representative would be “10 minutes.” When I attempted to call, I was on hold for 26 minutes before being able to speak to a customer service representative.

When I was finally able to get to speak to a customer service representative, I was able to obtain a mailing address for mailing a payment and was able to confirm that students are unable to pay their student loans by phone. When I inquired as to when the website would be back in service I was told, “Unfortunately, there is no time or date for that. It might be today or tomorrow, we’re just not sure.” When I informed them about problems myself and others have had with the customer service number, I was told, “Yes, we’ve got hundreds of calls, and its causing the phones to not connect.” The customer service representative assured me that late payments will not be reported to credit bureaus for ninety days, and that she was sure “it [the website] will be fixed by then.”

Some students are concerned that their payments will be marked as late, “I have a perfect credit rating, and I don’t want it to get ruined by their screw up. I’m sending a payment, but I’ve always paid online, and I’m not too happy about this,” said one former student who requested I not use her name.

“I don’t even think I’ll use the new website,” said another student, Dawn, who asked that only her first name be used, “It’s a .com website… I felt a little more secure paying at a .gov site, after all they are the government.”

Students who wish to pay their bills by mail can do so by sending a payment to: US Department of Education, PO Box 530260, Atlanta, GA 30353-0260.

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