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1.12.1.1 Federal Student Loan Ombudsman

The Department of Education (the Department) federal student aid ombudsman group has a website, and borrowers can submit requests for assistance resolving problems with their loans or loan servicing or collection online on the Federal Student Aid website.350 The toll-free phone number is 1-877-557-2575; the fax number is 606-396-4821; and the mailing address is U.S. Department of Education, FSA Ombudsman Group, P.O. Box 1843, Monticello, KY 42633.351

The ombudsman group’s stated goal is to facilitate and provide creative options for borrowers needing assistance with federal loans, Direct Loans, FFEL Program loans, SLS loans, and Perkins Loans. The ombudsman group will research problems and determine if borrowers have been treated fairly. It will also contact other offices within the Department, private lenders, and guaranty agencies to assist borrowers. However, the ombudsman office strongly emphasizes that it serves as a last resort, to be consulted only after a borrower has tried to resolve a problem on his or her own. The ombudsman does not assist with private loans and will contact private lenders only if they are part of the government loan programs. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) ombudsman handles complaints about private loans.352

In July 2016, the Department launched the Federal Student Aid (FSA) Feedback System,353 an online portal designed to allow individuals to submit complaints, provide positive feedback, and report suspicious activity354 relating to their experience with the federal aid programs.355 Feedback may be submitted online, or via a live agent at 1-844-651-0077; the mailing address is Federal Student Aid Feedback Center, P.O. Box 1966, Monticello, KY 42633. An individual who makes a complaint through the system should expect to hear back from the Department within fifteen days and, if applicable, be provided a resolution of the complaint within sixty days.

In 2018, the Department integrated the Ombudsman and Feedback systems “to better track and manage customers’ disputes, concerns, and reports of suspicious activity.”356

Footnotes

  • 350 {340} See U.S. Dep’t of Educ., Fed. Student Aid, Contacting the Ombudsman, https://studentaid.gov.

  • 351 {341} See U.S. Dept. of Educ., Dear Colleague Letter, GEN-16-04, Contact Information for the FSA Student Loan Ombudsman (Feb. 11, 2016).

  • 352 {342} See § 1.12.1.3, infra.

  • 353 {343} U.S. Dep’t of Educ., Electronic Announcement, Federal Student Aid Launches Online Feedback System (July 1, 2016) (stating that students, parents, and borrowers who submit complaints will “receive timely, meaningful resolution to their issues”), available at https://ifap.ed.gov.

  • 354 Beginning in February 2018, users of the Feedback System cannot choose “suspicious activity” as a category for classifying a case. Rather, the Department has the discretion to decide whether a particular complaint belongs in that category according to its own criteria. See U.S. Dep’t of Educ., Fed. Student Aid, Fiscal Year 2018 Annual Report 85 n.18 (Nov. 15, 2018), available at www2.ed.gov (“A review of cases following the first year of operating the FSA Feedback System showed that customer’s frequently incorrectly classified a case as ‘Suspicious Activity.’ Beginning in February 2018, customers cannot choose ‘Suspicious Activity.’ FSA now determines if a case should be classified as ‘Suspicious Activity’ based on objective criteria.”). See also id. at 97 (“Prior to February 2018, a customer could self-designate a submission as suspicious activity. The Ombudsman Group learned that the majority of such submissions were incorrectly categorized. Customers can no longer self-designate a submission as suspicious activity. The Ombudsman Group carefully reviews each customer submission to determine if there is a credible allegation of fraud or illegal activity associated with the federal financial aid programs.”).

    In addition, as of February 2018, the Department requires that users of the Feedback System provide a specific FSA ID number in order to submit a complaint, thereby eliminating the ability to report suspicious activity anonymously.

  • 355 {344} U.S. Dep’t of Educ., Fed. Student Aid, FSA Feedback System, available at https://feedback.studentaid.gov. See U.S. Dep’t of Educ., Fed. Student Aid, Federal Student Aid Feedback System Annual Report (Dec. 2017) (covering the period of July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017), available at https://studentaid.gov.

    The Department did not produce a freestanding Feedback System report at the end of 2018, choosing instead to include the relevant information in its FSA Annual Report. U.S. Dep’t of Educ., Fed. Student Aid, Fiscal Year 2018 Annual Report (Nov. 15, 2018), available at www2.ed.gov.

  • 356 U.S. Dep’t of Educ., Federal Student Aid, Fiscal Year 2018 Annual Report iv (Nov. 15, 2018).