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Paying for college [beta]

Americans owe more than a trillion dollars in student loan debt. That’s more than we owe on credit cards, more than we owe on car loans – and it’s still growing.

So, if you’re going to invest in a college degree, we want you to choose the best deal for your situation. Here at the CFPB we’ve been doing extensive research these last few months. We talked with students and sat down with high school guidance counselors to find out how students make choices about how to pay for college.

We found some recurring themes: Students are overwhelmed with options and aren’t sure how to compare them. In the absence of apples-to-apples comparisons, they’re left to their own devices when making a choice that will have significant consequences for their financial future.

So, what to do about it?

We interviewed financial experts, lenders, policy wonks, and thousands of people like you. You tried our pilots and gave us great feedback – including the fact that this stuff is not easy to figure out — and we heard you.

We’ve distilled the things students said they wish they had known, what experts recommend, and what our pilots have told us could save you money into a set of tools to help you navigate the noise, and to support you every step of the way.

Highlights include:

Choosing a loan

We answer the questions we heard over and over from students trying to figure out how to choose, and offer three steps that can help you get the right loan for you.

Comparing financial aid

When student aid offer letters start arriving from colleges in the spring, you’ll be able to use this tool to make an apples-to-apples comparison between options. A previous pilot of this tool included more automated data, but it didn’t always reflect individual situations accurately. We’re hoping it works better with your personalized offers in hand.

Managing your college money

You’re not going to get the best deal if choosing your first bank account is sandwiched between your first week of classes and your first collegiate meal of instant ramen. This guide will help you plan to get settled financially before you even get to campus.

Repaying student debt

You’ll get a personalized recommendation based on every repayment scenario, whether you’re active-duty military, behind on your loans, working at a non-profit, all of the above, none of the above, or something else entirely.

Real talk

This set of tools is in beta. Which means the tools can only get better from here. But they can only get better if you tell us: Are there parts of this that are hard to use? Did you find jargon you don’t understand? Or, did you find something you’d never heard of before? Did we miss something? Would this help you know what to tell your kid sister about paying for college if she was just starting to look at schools? Let us know!

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