The New York State Department of Financial Services has launched a website that offers advice and fraud-prevention services to college students.

The department's student-protection unit, established in January, is in charge of the site. Its goal is to make it easier for students and their families to decide how to pay for college.

Though the unit's mission is to be an "aggressive financial watchdog," Superintendent of Financial Services Benjamin Lawsky said, students "can often be their own best first-line of defense against scammers."

The website offers tips about government and private financial aid; how to avoid unnecessary or unfair fees when opening a bank account; how to manage student debt in the long term; and what to do in case of default.

The unit was established responding to research findings that suggest students are in dire need of knowing how to navigate the student financing system, the department said.

U.S. student-loan debt has more than quadrupled in the last decade to an estimated $1 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It has reached $27,310 per borrower in New York, the third highest in the country.

The department plans to expand online services to include student health insurance and other unspecified products.

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