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"Student Aid"

Michigan's new state portal includes a section designed to provide everything anyone would need to know about financial aid before, during and after enrolling in an institution of higher education.

The state's Department of Treasury is handling the financial aid "sub-portal" (www.state.mi.us/e-mi/edufunding). It offers a single source of information about grants, loans and scholarships, work-study programs, tax credits and family savings plans, said Anne Wohlfert, director of the Michigan's Office of Information and Resources for the Bureau of Student Financial Assistance.

"People would look in the Department of Education for financial aid information when it was actually located in the Treasury," Wohlfert said. "We wanted to truly make the site a place for one-stop shopping — where people can get the generic information associated with financial aid, but also provide things that aren't usually associated with the process, such as family savings plans."

Wohlfert said Treasury has operated a site (www.mi-studentaid.org) with information about financial aid for two years. But she said the new sub-portal shows the effort — in Michigan and elsewhere — to help citizens to find information based on what it is they want to do, as opposed to what agency they might need to consult.

The site also features points of entry that are user-specific. Students, parents, adult learners, guidance counselors, administrators, loan holders and lenders have their own links that take them to sites that help guide them to appropriate information.

Wohlfert said that she plans to expand the site to include interactive forms, a "chat night" feature and bulletin boards where experts can post answers to questions.

She also praised IBM Corp., which created the portal, for including its Vignette content management tool so information on the site can be updated quickly without affecting the rest of the state portal.

"When crucial loan interest rates change, we can simply go in to our sub-portal and make the necessary changes to the information instantly," Wohlfert said.

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