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How do I know how much I owe in student loans?
The first thing to know is that you can’t figure it out on your own. It’s one of the most common questions we get, and there’s no way to find out your exact debt without using an official tool or website. You’ll need to contact your loan provider directly or use a third-party service like Student Loan Hero.
You can also look at your credit report. If you’ve taken out federal loans or grants, they will be listed there. The total amount of your debt will be listed on your credit report as well as how much you paid off each month for the past 12 months (so if you made payments regularly, this number should be higher than what you actually owe). If you have private student loans, those will not be listed on your credit report but are still included in the total amount of debt owed.
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How To Find Your Student Loan Balance
If you’ve taken out federal student loans to pay for school, you might have multiple loans that spanned across different years. You might have even more loans to look out for if you’ve also borrowed private student loans.
Unless you’ve consolidated or refinanced your loans, you might not be able to keep up with them all. Here’s why knowing your loan balance matters, and how to find it.
Why It’s Important to Know How Much You Owe
It’s important to keep track of your student loan balance, especially if you’re responsible for multiple loans. If you lose track of just one due date, you could fall behind on loan payments. Payment history makes up 35% of your FICO score, and one missed or late payment can cause your credit score to drop.
Federal student loans come with loan limits, which depend on the year and the type of loan you borrow. For instance, first-year students are allowed to borrow up to $3,500 in federal direct subsidized loans. Third-year students can borrow up to $5,500 in subsidized loans.
If your subsidized loans don’t cover your costs, you might have to take out additional loans. These could be federal direct unsubsidized loans, federal PLUS loans or private student loans. Each year you need to borrow, you’ll take out at least one student loan—if not more.
When you borrowed your student loans, you agreed to repay that amount, plus interest, when you graduated or dropped below half-time enrollment. By the time you start repayment, your debt could’ve changed loan servicers (which is the company that collects your payments), making it even more confusing to find out how you can start payments. But finding out how much you owe and what companies manage your loans is a crucial step in tracking your loan repayment.
Checking Your Federal Student Loan Balances
If you borrowed money from the U.S. Department of Education, there are a few different ways you can check out your student loan balance.
1. Head to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS)
The Department of Education runs the NSLDS. From here you can create a Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID) or log in with your existing account.
The NSLDS will tell you:
How much you’ve borrowed
The type of loans you have (for example, whether it’s subsidized or unsubsidized)
Each loan’s interest rate
Your loan servicer (you could have more than one)
2. Contact Your School
Sometimes not all loans show up in the NSLDS. For example, loans that you didn’t take out yourself—like parent PLUS loans—would show up under your parent’s report. Along with that, not all loan entities report to the NSLDS frequently. This means you might not find all your loans, especially if you’ve recently borrowed.
If you want to make sure all your loans are accounted for, contact your school’s financial aid office. They’ll be able to look up your account information, including all loans processed under your name.
Keep in mind that while you might be able to get information about the lender who provided your loan when you were in school, there’s a chance your loan has changed hands since then. You can still contact the loan servicer on file, but you might have a little bit more digging to do if you find out your loan has moved to a different company’s portfolio.
Checking Your Private Student Loan Balances
Each private student lender handles loans differently; there’s no national database for private loans. If you’re unsure where to start, use these tips:
Reach out to your college or university. Your school’s financial aid office will have your original loan details and can let you know what company originated your loan.
Contact your original lender. Your original lender might still be your current loan servicer, but that’s not always the case. Contact the originating lender to see if they can point you in the direction of who has your loans now. You might have to reach out to many servicers to find the most up-to-date one.
Review your credit report. If you don’t know the original lender or where to find them, use AnnualCreditReport.com. This lets you pull credit reports from the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You’ll see details on your original loan servicer, giving you a starting point.
Should You Refinance or Consolidate to Simplify Repayment?
Staying on top of all your loans can be like a part-time job. You have to keep tabs on your borrowed amount, interest rate, due date and the minimum amount due every month.
To streamline your payments, you might want to think about consolidating or refinancing your loans.
Federal Loan Consolidation
A federal direct consolidation loan brings all your federal loans together into one easy-to-manage loan. Your interest rate is fixed and averaged out between all your loans, then rounded up to the nearest one eighth of a percentage point. This is only available for federal student loans; private student loans aren’t eligible.
Want to lower your payments. Repayment terms on consolidation loans stretch up to 30 years.
You should skip consolidation if you:
Want to pay off your loans sooner
Want a lower interest rate
Have interest rate discounts or other repayment perks with your current lenders
Are already on track for an IDR plan or PSLF; consolidation will restart your clock on these programs*
Private Student Loan Refinancing
Refinancing is similar to consolidation in that you bring all your loans into one manageable loan. But refinancing is only done with private lenders; the federal government doesn’t offer student loan refinancing. That means you’ll lose federal loan protections when you refinance federal loans into a private one.
You can refinance both private and federal student loans together. You’ll complete an application with a lender and detail all the current student loans you want to refinance. When you’re approved, you’ll start making one monthly payment on your new loan to your new lender.
You should refinance if you:
Have good or excellent credit and can secure a lower interest rate than what you’re paying now.
Have multiple loans with many different lenders, especially private loans.
Can secure a lower monthly payment by stretching out your loan term.
You should avoid refinancing if you:
Don’t have strong enough credit to get a lower interest rate.
Have federal loans that are eligible for an IDR plan or you’re on track for PSLF.
While consolidation and refinancing might simplify your payments, they’re not necessarily the best decision for everyone. Review your loans, including your interest rate, repayment terms, how much you pay every month, and how much you could save if you choose either of these options. If you’re not saving money or you could end up paying more over time, you may want to stay on your current repayment schedule for now.
Because of the complexity of student loans and the way they are administered, it can be difficult to determine exactly how much you owe. However, there are several ways to find out:
The best way is to contact your lender directly for an exact figure. This will require filling out a form with your personal information and requesting that they provide you with a statement of all outstanding balances. You can also request this information from them over the phone or via email if they have an online messaging service available.
Another option is to use the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) website, which allows borrowers to log in, see their balance and payment history, and make payments. You must create a login and password before being able to access this information; however, it is free to use so long as you don’t want additional services like address changes or loan consolidation services added on top of what’s already there.
Finally, if you’re not comfortable accessing your data via either method above then there may be other options available such as calling or visiting in person at one of their offices located throughout America’s 50 states plus Washington DC where staff members would be able to assist with any questions regarding individual accounts such as monthly payments owed