Student Loans

Get answers to the most common questions about student loans.

Getting a Student Loan

When you are exploring ways to pay for college, you might consider money you'd borrow in the form of federal or private loans. This chart summarizes the differences. 

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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

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Repaying a Student Loan

After you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment, you have a period of time before you begin repayment of your student loans, known as a "grace period." You may find information on your loan's grace period in the terms and conditions portion of your signed promissory note.

Resources that are available to help you regarding repaying student loans:

  • This guide will give you tips on finding the right repayment plan for you, learning how to make payments, getting help if you can’t afford your payments, and learning how a loan debt may be forgiven, canceled, or discharged.
  • This list of resources offers links to a wide variety of specific topics you may be looking for.

Contact the Department of Education's (ED) Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or 1-319-337-5665 with questions.

Contact your Loan Originator

Contact the loan originator when you have questions about repayment information. If you don't know who your loan originator is:

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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

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

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

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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

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Resolve Student Loan Disputes

If you and your loan servicer disagree about the balance or status of your loan, following these steps can help you to resolve your loan dispute on your own. Use the Self-Resolution Checklist to ensure that you have done everything you can.

If you’ve completed the steps to resolve your loan dispute and you still are not satisfied, 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, make sure to have this information available.

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Unable to Pay Student Loans

Finding Loan Information

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

You may 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 account 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:

Disputing a Loan

If you have been unable to resolve a dispute with your student loan lender, the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman may help you figure out how to resolve a student loan dispute.

Canceling/Discharging a Loan

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 you qualify for forbearance, or a delay in payment, while your discharge processes. 

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