How to Check Balance of Student Loans
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Over 43 million Americans alone are affected by student loan debt and continue paying off their student loans long after college. With federal and private loans combined, total student loan debt in the United States has reached record highs of $1.75 trillion. That's a lot of money to owe!
While all student loan borrowers contribute to this number, your current balance is unique to you. A student loan balance shows how much you owe before paying off your student loans completely, which is based on the principal loan amount and any unpaid interest.
All student loan borrowers want to pay off their debt as soon as possible and avoid falling behind on payments. Checking your current balance is essential for keeping track of your student loan repayment plan and making smarter financial decisions.
It can be easy to lose track of your loan payments and remaining balance amidst all your other financial commitments. A quick check on your balance can help you make sense of the chaos. Here are a few steps— in order of convenience— to follow to make checking your student loan balance easier.
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Step 1: Check the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS)
The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) shows how much you owe in federal student loans to the U.S. Department of Education. The NSLDS gathers information from guaranty agencies, loan servicers, and other governments Under Title IV of the federal Higher Education Act. You can access all your federal student loan balances through this national database.
You'll need to log in with your federal student aid ID to access this student loan data system. If you do not have an account yet, you can create a new FSA ID on the website. Once you log in to your dashboard, you'll be able to see your federal student loan balance and the interest rate on all your ongoing loans.
The U.S. Department of Education also lets you check your balance on the go with their mobile app, myStudentAid, available for iOS and Android users. With the app, you'll be able to check the same loan information from the website and your repayment progress.
Take note that the NSLDS can only show you the balance and interest rate of your federal loans. Since the NSLDS only shows loan information for federal student loans borrowed from the U.S. Department of Education, the database cannot be used to check your private student loan balance. You'll have to reach out to your private loan servicers, as you'll learn in a later step.
Step 2: Contact your school's financial aid office
You can always check with your college about the current status of either your federal student loans or your private student loans. You can also contact your school's financial aid office for federal student aid and private loan information that doesn't show up in the NSLDS since the NSLDS can only show your federal student loan balance.
Since most loans are usually disbursed to student loan borrowers through their universities and college institutions, you're sure to find your student loan information through them as well. You can also ask your financial aid office to look up your student account information to access your loan balance and any student loans processed under your name.
Your financial aid office is also a great resource to help you manage your student loan payments. Take advantage of their services by consulting them before making any major financial decisions and throughout your repayment progress.
If your financial aid office cannot provide your total balance, they can still tell you who your current servicer is. They can also help you get into contact with the proper loan servicers, taking you to the next step of the process.
Step 3: Contact your loan servicer
For private student loans, especially if you have multiple loans under your name, it's best to go straight to the source to check your remaining balance. One of the most important steps in checking your private student loan balance is to contact your current loan servicer.
Your original lender, which you originally borrowed from, may not necessarily be your current loan servicer. However, they can help point you in the right direction to make sure you're contacting the right people.
Hopefully, you saved your original loan documents and can pull the contact information from there if you're unsure who you originally borrowed the student loan from. Alternatively, you can access your student loan information from your school's financial aid office (Step 2), or from a free credit report (Step 4).
Once you know your current loan servicer, head to their website or app and log in to your account to view all your most up-to-date details, including your payment history and private student loan balances.
Step 4: Check your credit report
When all else fails, request your free credit reports from the three major credit bureaus— Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Your credit report lists all your ongoing and past credit obligations, including your private student loans and the private lenders whom you borrowed them from.
Although a credit report can show your student loan balance, they tend to be a few months behind in updating and may not accurately show your current student loan balances. So while we have listed checking your credit report as the last step, you can see it more as a starting point where you'll go back to the prior step if you were unable to do it before.
In case you didn't save your original loan documents, or you can't find them or perhaps don’t remember who you originally borrowed from, you can always turn to credit reports for this missing information. Here at Bold.org, we highly recommend you save your original loan documents to help you stay organized.
On your credit report, you'll see contact information for your original lender. From there, you can figure out who your loans are under now and refer back to Step 3 of this blog post to check your current student loan balance.
Frequently asked questions about student loan balance
Why did my student loan balance go to zero?
Based on your principal loan amount and any unpaid interest up to that point, your balance tells you how much you owe on federal student loans or private student loans. If your student loan balance is suddenly showing zero, some of the many reasons could be:
- Your federal student aid or private student loans were forgiven
- You've completed one of the student loan forgiveness programs
- You qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), or
- Your original student loan servicer has changed.
Alternatively, you may have been able to pay down your student debt to get your total balance to zero. However, if you know your balance shouldn't be zero and haven’t received any approval letter for loan forgiveness, you may need to reach out to your loan servicer.
Don't relax just yet! Just because your balance is showing zero doesn't always mean you're completely clear of your student loans. Check with your loan servicer to make sure your student debt truly is settled.
When do you have to start repaying your student loans?
Generally, you won't need to begin making monthly payments until you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment. If you have federal loans, you should expect monthly payments to resume after the six-month grace period ends.
Private lenders, however, are a little different as they have separate rules and regulations with their loans. It is advised for student borrowers to reach out to their specific loan servicer to get that clarity.
Setting up automatic payments will ensure that you never miss a loan payment. Visit your loan servicer's website or the NSLDS website for more student loan information, to start repayment, or to check the monthly payment status on your loans.
How long does it take to pay back student loans?
There are many factors to consider when figuring out how long it will take you to completely pay off your student loans. The interest rate, the type of loan, and the type of repayment plan you're on all affect how long it takes to pay back student loans. When you find your student loan balance, you'll better understand your repayment timeline.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, ten years is the ideal timeline to pay off your student loan, but repayment terms can last anywhere from 10 to 30 years. Be aware of the minimum amount due for each monthly payment. Although you can save money on interest by paying off your loans faster, you'll make higher monthly payments in exchange.
Federal loans can be eligible for different repayment plans, such as an income-driven repayment plan, where borrowers make monthly payments based on how much they earn. The higher income repayment plan means higher monthly payments. Talk to your loan servicer about the repayment plans available for private loans.
Another great resource for financial advice is your school's financial aid office. Talk to a counselor about managing student loan payments during and after college.
When does interest start on student loans?
The interest rate on your loans contributes to your student loan balances. Interest means that the longer a person takes to repay their student loans, the higher their balance will be for student loan debt.
Student loans accumulate interest as soon as the money is deposited into your bank account. Interest can start on these loans even while you're still in school. Federal subsidized loans are the only exception. However, it is worth noting that a different interest rate is associated with each type of student loan.
Can I use scholarships to pay off student loan debt?
Scholarships are a great source of financial aid! They are a more sensible alternative to student loans and help you save money while paying for college. Some scholarships can be put towards paying off loans you already have!
Bold.org has a list of scholarships and grants that can help pay off student loan debt. Whether you're a student or a college graduate, you may be eligible for these forms of financial aid opportunities if you are affected by student loan debt. The funds will be distributed directly to the loan servicers and put towards your student loan balance.
For more resources and up-to-date information on student loans, check out Bold.org's blog for more posts like these. Create your profile now to stay in the loop for exclusive scholarships and financial aid tips.