Student loan company Nelnet said providers received no advance warning about the White House’s loan forgiveness plan, contributing to confusion and site outages.
President Joe Biden’s announcement of student debt relief for millions of Americans on Wednesday caused the websites of loan providers and a federal agency to crash in response to an overwhelming influx of visitors—and at least one provider suggested that the outages and slowdowns were due in part to a lack of communication from the federal government.
Traffic to the Education Department’s Federal Student Aid website, StudentAid.gov, was up more than 500% on Aug. 24 compared to the same day last year, a spokesperson for the department told Nextgov, who also said that the webpage the Biden administration set up on the site to provide further information about the debt relief plan was viewed more than 3.9 million times on its first day.
The site experienced outages as a result of the influx of visitors. The spokesperson told Nextgov that an overwhelming surge in web traffic—including those visiting the website’s page outlining the president’s student debt relief plan—was responsible for those accessibility issues.
“Federal Student Aid has taken steps to increase the website’s capacity,” the spokesperson said Thursday in a statement. “FSA will continue to monitor site performance and make adjustments as needed.”
FSA announced on August 26 that it had set up a waiting room “to manage the high volumes of visitors and prevent login errors” to help deal with the sharp increase in web traffic.
Nelnet, one of the largest servicers of federal student loans in the country, also said in a tweet on Wednesday that it was “experiencing extremely high website and phone traffic” as a result of the loan forgiveness announcement. In a statement to Nextgov, Nelnet spokesman Ben Kiser said part of the problem was due to the fact that the company was caught off guard by the plan’s rollout.
“Unfortunately, servicers and borrowers learned about this plan simultaneously through the media,” Kiser said. “As a result, we don’t have details to share with borrowers who want to know about their eligibility and possible timeline for cancellation when they call-in or visit our website. When we have more information, we look forward to supporting our customers through the process.”
Nelnet directed borrowers to visit StudentAid.gov for further information.
The White House did not respond to multiple requests for comment about why it did not provide student loan providers with advanced notice about the debt relief announcement.
The Biden administration said that roughly 20 million borrowers will see their student debt completely eliminated under the plan, which will provide up to $10,000 in debt relief for borrowers making under $125,000 a year, and up to $20,000 in relief for Pell Grant recipients. More than 45 million borrowers across the U.S. have a collective estimated $1.6 trillion in outstanding student loans, according to a White House fact sheet.