FEDERAL STUDENT AID

When COVID-19 hit, our professional and personal lives were impacted. In March 2020, we were told to work from home. Over a year later, most of us are continuing to work from home. At the same time in March 2020, the federal government provided some support to the public. One of them being the CARES Act. As part of the CARES Act,
federal loan repayments were put on pause and interest on these loans was lowered to 0%. What this meant was approximately 40 million borrowers did not have to make a federal loan repayment while their interest rate was 0%. Initially this administrative flexibility was scheduled to end on September 30, 2020. It has since been extended a few times, with the current end date being January 31, 2022.

Immediately in early March, U.S. Department of Education, office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) informed its 40 million borrowers of the flexibilities by creating a dedicated web page on StudentAid.gov, its customer-facing website, with key information along with Q&A sections for segmented populations – StudentAid.gov/coronavirus. In addition, FSA shared information via its social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) directed customers to StudentAid.gov. Once the initial communications were complete, a dedicated team of communicators, subject matter experts, and policy
experts gathered to map out the customer journey/user experience for a borrower in light of the COVID flexibilities. With this effort a COVID Communications Plan was developed and implemented. The plan activated communications via numerous channels including social media; paid media; paid search; email; text/SMS; blog/articles; and partner engagement.

 

Each time the COVID flexibilities for the borrowers were extended the communications plan was revised. FSA continued to share information and guidance with borrowers from March 2020 to the present.

Through these continuous communications, FSA was able to stay engaged with its customers and provide them with guidance. Some of the messaging included reminding customers of the end date for the flexibilities and extensions as they occurred. Other communications provided guidance on how borrowers could find the best repayment plan for them based on their current financial situation and steps they could take to be prepared to resume repayment when the time came.

2021
SERVICE TO THE CITIZEN AWARD WINNER

Vandna Wendy Bhagat image.jpg

VANDNA WENDY BHAGAT

Director, Product Marketing & Delivery,
Federal Student Aid