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(General) Subject: Upcoming Change to Federal Student Aid Web Addresses

Posted Date:October 31, 2016

Author: Pamela Eliadis, Service Director, System Operations & Aid Delivery Management, Federal Student Aid

Subject: Upcoming Change to Federal Student Aid Web Addresses

We would like to inform the community of an upcoming change that will impact the web addresses (URLs) that are used to access Federal Student Aid’s systems and websites. We have begun the work necessary to comply with an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) federal memorandum (OMB Memorandum M-15-13) that requires all publicly-accessible federal websites and web services provide service only through a secure internet connection.

This mandate requires that all users connect to Federal Student Aid websites using a consistent level of encryption offering the highest degree of privacy protection. Although complex changes will be occurring behind the scenes to ensure compliance with this requirement, external users of Federal Student Aid’s websites will be impacted primarily by two straightforward changes to web addresses:

  • Any Federal Student Aid URL that begins with the “http” prefix will be updated to use the “https” prefix.

  • The “www” prefix will be removed from any Federal Student Aid URL that includes the “www” prefix.

Note: For the majority of our websites, a URL that is compliant with this mandate is already in place and may be used (and bookmarked in a web browser) now. As explained below, redirects from non-compliant URLs eventually will be removed. To prevent encountering error messages in the future, we encourage all users of Federal Student Aid websites to carefully review the information in this announcement and begin transitioning to compliant Federal Student Aid URLs as soon as possible.

In the following sections, we describe the upcoming changes to Federal Student Aid web addresses in further detail. We present this information in the following order:

  • Implementation Schedule

  • Browser Information

  • Notifying Students, Parents, and Borrowers

  • Contact Information

Implementation Schedule

All Federal Student Aid web addresses will begin with “https” and will not contain “www” by the end of next year (December 31, 2017). In many cases, this update has been completed and the community is already familiar with—and is using—a fully-compliant URL. In other cases, the compliant URL as well as an older, non-compliant URL are both in use, and a temporary redirect is in place.

Important Note Regarding Redirects: As we implement this change, it will be important for users to understand that many “old” Federal Student Aid URLs will continue to function for a period of time. A frequently-used technique on the web is a URL redirect, to allow users who may not be aware of a URL change to continue to use a bookmarked URL or to type the outdated web address into their browser’s address bar, without encountering an error page. When the browser attempts to open the old URL, the user is “redirected” to the newer URL. Often a redirect occurs without the user even noticing.

Redirects are useful to ease the transition to a new URL and Federal Student Aid websites that currently have non-compliant URLs in use will continue to employ redirects until December 31, 2017. However, as stated previously, we encourage all users to transition to compliant Federal Student Aid URLs (with the prefix “https” and no “www”) as soon as possible.

Browser Information

As Federal Student Aid completes the transition to compliant URLs, an important fact is that many older and/or unsupported web browsers (e.g., Internet Explorer 8, 9, and 10) may have issues with a connection to a website that begins with the prefix “https” after the website has implemented HSTS (HTTP Strict Transport Security). Implementation of HSTS is an important component of Federal Student Aid’s transition to secure internet connections. To prevent receiving error messages in the future, users should ensure they have access to Internet Explorer 11 or above, or the current version of other web browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.).

Notifying Students, Parents, and Borrowers

In addition to updating web addresses as they are cross-referenced and hyperlinked throughout our professionally-focused websites, publications, and training materials, we will be modifying our student-facing websites and materials to reflect the changes. We appreciate the community’s assistance in helping us inform students and parents of the changes, and understand the degree to which this change will impact school-based communications and outreach materials.

The websites of our federal loan servicers are also impacted by this change, and we are working to ensure compliance with minimal disruption to borrowers. As this change is implemented over the coming months, each federal loan servicer will update its borrower notifications and work directly with borrowers as needed, to ensure the change is communicated. We will update the information for each federal loan servicer on our Information for Financial Aid Professionals (IFAP) and websites at the appropriate time.

Contact Information

Thank you in advance for your support as we implement this important change to Federal Student Aid web addresses.

If you have a question about accessing a specific Federal Student Aid system or website, please contact the corresponding customer service center. Contact information for all of Federal Student Aid’s customer service centers is found on the Contact Information page on the IFAP website.

Last Modified: 10/30/2016