Many Illinois Student Loan Borrowers Will Soon Have A Better Idea Of Their Debt

May 13, 2020

In Illinois, public college and university students and their guardians will soon have a better idea of how much they’ve borrowed -- and an estimate of how much they’ll be paying back per month.

That’s thanks to a state pilot program. The letters relay information on federal, private and institutional loans.

Bobbi Smith is the interim director of financial aid at Western Illinois University.

“The most difficult part wasn't gathering the information because that's pretty readily available to us through NSLDS (National Student Loan Data System). It was coming up with the monthly repayment amount,” she said.

Along with the total amounts and repayment estimates, it also tells you what percent of the borrowing limit you’ve reached and lists financial resources available. 

“We already had students call and say 'What? I didn't think I took out any loans?' and then you know, we were able to communicate with them. ‘Yes, you have. And Yes, you did.’ And, you know, it's good that you know this stuff now,” she said.

The federal government is also launching a student loan acknowledgment tool to make students understand what they’ve borrowed before they accept it. That program could be delayed due to COVID-19. 

Illinois schools have until the end of June to send the letters. Most will receive them through email. Some schools collaborated with student loan servicers like Great Lakes, while others used a template from the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

The pilot program expires after the 2022-23 school year. Until then, letters will go out annually. The first of those must go out by the end of June.

The CARES Act paused federal student loans for six months. A new version of the stimulus plan could provide even more relief as the COVID-19 crisis collides with the student debt crisis.