Student Loans

Get answers to the most common questions about student loans.

Get a Student Loan

Types of Student Loans

When you are exploring ways to pay for college, career, or technical schools, you may consider taking out a student loan—money you borrow to help you cover your education expenses and that you must pay back with interest.   

Student loans originate from the federal government (called “federal student loans”) or from private sources, such as a bank, credit union, state agency, or school. Learn the differences between federal and private loans before considering a loan.

Federal Student Loans

If you need to borrow money to pay for college or career school, start with the more affordable federal student loan:

Types of Federal Student Loan Programs - The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program offers four types of Direct Loans:    

  • Direct Subsidized Loans are made to eligible undergraduate students based on financial need.
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans are made to eligible undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, and are not based on financial need.
  • Direct PLUS Loans are made to graduate or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students.
  • Direct Consolidation Loans allow you to combine all of your eligible federal student loans into a single loan with a single loan servicer.

The Federal Perkins Loan Program is administered through the schools, and awarded to undergraduates and graduate students with exceptional financial need. If you are eligible, you should take this loan first.

Eligibility - You must be enrolled at a school that participates in the school loan program, and meet the general eligibility requirements.

How to apply -Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. Watch this video to learn more about what happens after submitting your FAFSA.

Private Student Loans

Before taking a private loan, make sure you need it. These loans generally are not as affordable as federal student loans, and offer little repayment flexibility. Read these tips before getting a  private loan.

Learn more about student loans, and how to identify deceptive private loan practices.

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Responsible Borrowing

Learn how to be an informed, and responsible borrower.

0:00 College or career school is an important step in achieving your future goals,

0:05 and there are many financial aid options to consider.

0:08 Did you know that a federal student loan can be a great way to help pay for school?

0:13 After all, a grant, work-study job, or a scholarship

0:17 can be a huge help, but these forms of aid may not cover

0:20 the full cost of attending school.

0:23 So if you decide to take out a federal student loan,

0:25 it’s important to understand what you are getting and be a responsible borrower.

0:30 Getting a loan is a big decision. You might be paying your loans back

0:34 for 10 years or more, so take your time to decide.

0:37 And remember to accept only the loans that you need,

0:41 because you’ll have to repay them once you’re out of school.

0:43 Here are a few things to keep in mind when deciding how much to borrow.

0:47 Do some research: Make sure that your school is the right fit for you

0:52 both educationally and financially.

0:55 Location, location, location:

0:57 The amount of money you need to borrow can depend a lot

1:00 on where your school is located.

1:02 In-state schools and community colleges

1:04 may cost less than out-of-state schools.

1:07 And finally, getting an idea of your future income

1:10 is also important when deciding how much to borrow.

1:13 Starting salaries vary greatly depending on your career path,

1:17 so it’s worth thinking about how the amount of your loan will affect your future finances.

1:21 After all, your student loan payments should be only a small percentage

1:25 of your salary after you graduate.

1:27 Once you’ve decided on your school and figured out how much money you should borrow,

1:31 you’ll need to sign a promissory note, which is an agreement to repay your loan.

1:35 Make sure you keep a copy for your records.

1:38 If you do take out loans, you’ll need to keep in touch

1:41 with your loan servicer when repayment begins.

1:44 Your loan servicer will make this easy for you

1:47 you by offering web, e-mail, and phone contact options.

1:50 If you make this investment in your future,

1:52 being an informed, responsible borrower can pay off in a big way.

1:56 If you have questions or need more information,

1:59 please visit StudentAid.gov.

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Repay a Student Loan

Before You Graduate, Leave School, or Enroll Less Than Half-Time

For every federal student loan you received, your school or loan servicer provided information about it. Review your borrowing history, and make note of the amount you originally borrowed and the current balance for each federal student loan.

When You Leave School

After you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment, you may have a period of time before you begin repaying your student loans, known as a "grace period."

Select a Repayment Plan for Your Federal Student Loans

Within the grace period you may receive information about repayment from your lender. You’ll have a choice of several repayment plans. Find the right one for you.

Most federal student loans are eligible for at least one income-driven or income-based repayment plan (IBR). These repayment plans are based on a percentage of your discretionary income. They’re designed to make your student loan debt more manageable by reducing your monthly payment amount.

Contact Your Loan Originator

Your loan originator can answer your questions about about repayment. If you don't know who your loan originator is:

After Your Grace Period

After your grace period is over, you will have to start making your payments. Do not miss any payments. Paying your loans on time will help your credit score.

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Repayment of Your Student Loans: What to Expect

Learn about the repayment of your student loans, and the options you have.

0:00 If you've taken out a federal student loan,

0:02 there will come a time when you have to repay what you've borrowed.

0:05 That time comes after you graduate, leave school,

0:08 or drop below half-time enrollment.

0:10 But don't worry, in most cases, you won't have to begin making payments right away.

0:14 For instance, you won't have to start repaying your direct subsidized loan

0:18 or direct unsubsidized loan for 6 months,

0:21 and your Federal Perkins Loan begins repayment after 9 months.

0:24 If you have a PLUS loan, your loan enters repayment after your final disbursement,

0:28 but you may be able to postpone your payments.

0:31 Before your loan enters repayment,

0:34 you'll be contacted by a loan servicer.

0:36 A loan servicer is an organization that manages loans

0:39 and collects payments on behalf of the lender.

0:42 For loans you receive from the U.S. Department of Education,

0:45 you will submit your payments to your loan servicer.

0:47 If you have a Perkins Loan from your school,

0:49 you'll make payments to your school or your school's loan servicer.

0:53 Your loan servicer can help you select the repayment plan that works best for you.

0:57 There are different types of plans that you can choose

1:00 choose based on the type of loan you received and how much you've borrowed.

1:03 For example, you may select a fixed monthly payment.

1:07 But some people opt for a graduated repayment plan

1:10 where payments start low and increase every two years.

1:13 If you think you'll need a longer amount of time to pay back the loan,

1:16 you may be eligible for an extended repayment plan.

1:19 There are also options that base your loan payments on your income

1:23 income in order to help you better manage your debt.

1:25 If you ever find yourself having difficulty making payments,

1:29 contact your loan servicer immediately to discuss the options available to you.

1:33 If you need to look up the contact information of your loan servicer,

1:37 we have a great resource available.

1:39 The National Student Loan Data System can provide your loan servicer's name

1:43 and contact information, as well as other details about your loan.

1:47 Visit www.nslds.ed.gov.

1:54 If you are interested in estimating your monthly loan payments,

1:57 or if you would like more information, please visit StudentAid.gov.

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How to Manage your Student Loans

Learn about options such as switching repayment plans, deferment and forbearance, or consolidating your loans.

00:00 If you have a federal student loan, there are several options

0:04 available to help you manage your debt.

0:05 And if you’re having trouble making your loan payments,

0:08 contact your loan servicer immediately.

0:10 Your loan servicer will walk you through your options.

0:14 For example, you might consider changing your repayment plan.

0:18 There are several repayment options available to you.

0:21 Most borrowers start off with the standard repayment plan,

0:24 which offers a fixed payment over a 10-year period.

0:27 However, you can lower your initial monthly payments

0:31 using a graduated repayment plan that starts with lower

0:34 monthly payments that gradually increase over time.

0:37 Or if you qualify, you may be able to lower your monthly payments

0:41 by extending them over a longer period of time.

0:45 Finally, you may be able to choose a repayment plan

0:47 that ties your monthly payments to your income.

0:50 If you meet certain requirements, you may be able to defer

0:54 or temporarily postpone your payments for a variety of reasons,

0:58 including a return to school, unemployment, or military service.

1:02 If you’re having trouble making your loan payments,

1:05 but do not qualify for a deferment, your loan servicer may grant forbearance,

1:10 which allows you to postpone or reduce your monthly payment

1:13 for a limited period of time due to financial difficulty or certain other reasons.

1:18 Contact your loan servicer to see if you qualify for deferment or forbearance.

1:23 If you have multiple federal loans,

1:26 consolidating them into one loan may also help you better manage your debt.

1:30 In addition to having to make only one federal student loan payment each month,

1:35 your monthly payment amount may be lower

1:37 since the length of your repayment schedule may be extended.

1:40 Consolidating your loans is easy and can be done

1:43 any time after you leave school.

1:45 Switching repayment plans, exploring deferment and forbearance options,

1:49 or consolidating your loans may help you

1:52 better manage your student loan payments and avoid default.

1:55 Remember, if you’re having difficulty making payments,

1:59 contact your loan servicer immediately to discuss the pros and cons of these options.

2:04 If you have questions or need more information,

2:07 please visit StudentAid.gov.

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Resolve Student Loan Disputes

If you and your loan servicer disagree about the balance or status of your loan, follow these steps to resolve your disputes:

1. Solve the Issue with Your Loan Servicer

You may be able to solve a dispute by simply contacting your loan servicer and discussing the issue. This guide can help you work through an issue with your loan servicer to resolve the dispute.

2. Request Help from the FSA Ombudsman Group

If you have followed the guide and still cannot resolve your issue, as a last resort, contact the Federal Student Aid (FSA) Ombudsman Group. The FSA Ombudsman works with student loan borrowers to informally resolve loan disputes and problems.

You can request help online or call 1-877-557-2575. Before contacting the FSA Ombudsman Group, use this checklist to gather the information you’ll need to discuss the dispute with them.

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Unable to Repay Student Loans

If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t pay the full amount due on time or have to miss a payment, your loan may be considered delinquent and you may be charged late fees. Contact your loan servicer immediately for help, and ask them about your options.

Finding Your Loan Information

If you are unsure which agency is servicing your defaulted student loan(s), contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC).

You may also retrieve your loan information from the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). This system contains financial aid information collected from schools, agencies, and other educational institutions. You will need your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID information to access your account.

Resolving Defaulted Loans

The Default Resolution Group helps student loan borrowers in default arrange debt payments. Contact the Default Resolution Group at 1-800-621-3115.

Find more information on defaulted student loans:

Eligibility for Loan Forgiveness, Cancellation, and Discharge

Loan Forgiveness

You may qualify to have some or all your federal student loan amount forgiven if you enter and continue to work full-time in a public service job. Learn more about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.

Loan Cancellation, or Discharge

Under certain circumstances, a school or financial institution will agree to cancel or discharge a loan. Continue making payments on your loan until you hear whether your discharge went through, or if you qualify for forbearance (a temporary suspension or reduction in payments).

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Last Updated: June 29, 2017

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