So, you’ve graduated from college. Congratulations! Now it’s time to start paying back your student loans and to chip away at the $1.2 trillion in student loan debt shared among Americans.
Before you begin the repayment process, however, you should answer a few important questions—for example, how much do you owe in student loans? And to which business or businesses do you owe that money?
Here are some tips for tracking down the answers that you need.
Want a PDF checklist of where to find your loans? Get it here.
How Much Do I Owe in Federal Student Loans?
Learning how much you owe in federal loan repayment is easy. The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS), a database managed by the Department of Education (DOE), shows you everything that you need to know about how much you owe federal student aid and loans.
The NSLDS collects data from schools, guaranty agencies, loan programs, and other DOE programs so that students can investigate ways to pay for college and easily access other loan- and grant-related information.
When you’re ready to repay your loans, use the NSLDS to find information about your loan’s original amount, balance, servicing group, interest, and payment status.
Once inside the NSLDS, the database will give you a ballpark figure on how much you owe in student loans. However, balances can be up to 120 days old, so you should confirm figures by contacting whichever business services your loans.
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of the NSLDS is that it’s “99 percent accurate,” according to student loan attorney Joshua Cohen.
Yet, the database also poses two major limitations. It reports data about your federal student loans only, not your private loans, and it doesn’t report data about older loans—for example, ones borrowed in the 1980s.
How Much Do I Owe in Private Student Loans?
Retrieving balances on private loans is a little trickier than finding information on federal loans, namely for two reasons.
One, no national database for private student loans exists.
Two, the financial institution that originally issued the loan may outsource loan servicing to another group, a secondary market encompassing private education, or a state group that buys, sells, and services student loans.
But don’t worry. There are still relatively easy ways that you can find your private loan balances. They are:
- Consult credit reports: Credit reports typically include contact information for creditors such as your new loan servicer. Of course, lending institutions often don’t report debt to every credit agency, so it’s best to check all three major credit groups: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. You can get a free report from each of these three agencies once a year by visiting annualcreditreport.com.
- Ask your school for help: If you’ve had trouble with tracking down all of your loans, then talk to your university’s financial aid administrator, who can help you to identify which business currently owns your loans.
- Ask your original lender (if your loan has changed servicers): Your original lender is always the best place to begin this search. Hopefully, you’ve kept your original loan documents with the lender’s contact information. One call should help you to find out what business currently owns your loan.
Once you track down both your private and federal student loans, you can use the Student Loan Hero dashboard to track your loans as you pay them off.
Some Ways You Can Pay Off Student Loans
Once you figure out how much you owe, it’s time to pay off your debt as efficiently as possible. Since you might have missed that course in college, here are some steps that you can take to overcome debt before you’re ready to retire.
1. Pay off private student loans first, because interest rates on those loans can eventually climb and exceed your monthly budget.
2. Put at least 10% of your monthly gross income toward your student debt, instead of paying only the minimum balance. That way, you’ll pay off the debt sooner and pay less in interest, while saving space in your budget for other financial goals such as buying a home, saving for retirement, or building an emergency fund.
3. Ask your employer to pay off your loans. Though it sounds far-fetched, some companies may start helping loyal employees to reduce or erase their student loans in lieu of larger salaries. Recently proposed legislation in Colorado would give employers tax credits if they give qualified workers up to $10,000 per year to pay off their student loans.
4. Make automatic payments. Many lenders actually charge a slightly lower interest rate if you allow them to automatically deduct payments from your bank account each month.
Do you have any questions about how to find out how much you owe in student loans? Let us know below!
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