When you graduate from college, you have just a few precious months to enjoy your accomplishment. Then, reality hits as your grace period ends and your student loan payments become due.
Many people take on several loans from different lenders while in school. Each loan can have its own interest rate and minimum payment. Worse, each loan might have a different loan servicer, so you’ll have to manage payments across several accounts.
“How much do I owe in student loans?” is a fundamental question. Without knowing how much you owe or to whom you owe it, you can’t start tackling your debt.
If you don’t know where to start, here are some tips for tracking down the answers that you need.
How much do I owe in student loans?
What you originally borrowed to pay for school is likely not what you owe now. Unfortunately, you probably owe much more.
Depending on the types of loans you have and their interest rates, your loan balance could grow. Thanks to interest charges, you could end up owing hundreds or even thousands more than you originally borrowed.
To find out what you owe with the accrued interest, the following tools for federal and private student loans can help.
Federal student loans
Figuring out how much you owe in federal loans is easy. The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS), a database managed by the Department of Education (DOE), shows you how much you owe in federal student aid.
It also shows who your loan servicer is now. Servicers sometimes transfer loans to other companies, so it’s possible to end up with a new company than when you took out the loan.
The NSLDS collects data from schools, guaranty agencies, loan programs, and other DOE programs so that students can easily access their loan information. You can use the NSLDS to find information about your loan’s original amount, balance, loan servicer, interest, and payment status.
Once you log in, the database will list your loans and loan servicers. Keep in mind that the numbers might not be completely accurate; the listed balances can be as much as 120 days old.
It’s a good idea to use the NSLDS to identify your loan servicers and then follow up with your servicers directly to find out the current balance on your loans.
The database has three major limitations:
- It lists only some of your loans: It reports data about your federal student loans only. The NSLDS does not collect information about private student loans.
- It does not list old loans: The NSLDS does not have data on older loans — for example, ones borrowed in the 1980s. If you have loans that are from that time frame but are still in repayment, you’ll have to locate them by looking at your credit report.
- It does not list medical or nursing school loans: The NSLDS only reports data on Title IV-eligible loans. Medical and nursing school loans do not fit into that category.
Private student loans
Retrieving balances on private loans is a little trickier than finding information on federal loans. There’s no national database for private student loans like there is for federal loans. Also, the financial institution that originally issued the loan may outsource loan servicing to another group or sell your loans to a different servicer.
However, there are other ways to find your private loan balances:
- Check your credit report: Credit reports list all of your current and past lines of credit, including student loans. It will list the loan servicer and the amount you borrowed. You can use that information to contact the servicer to check on the status of your account or make payments.
You can get a free credit report from the three main credit reporting agencies — Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax — by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Ask your school for help: If you have trouble tracking down your loans, talk to your university’s financial aid office. They can help you identify who currently manages your debt.
- 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 phone call should help you find out what company currently owns your loan.
5 ways you can pay off student loans faster
Once you figure out how much you owe, you can come up with a strategy to pay off your loans. Depending on your finances, you might be able to accelerate repayment and save money by doing the following:
- Use windfalls to pay down debt: If your budget is tight and there isn’t much left over for extra payments, you can still pay off your loans faster by taking advantage of any windfalls. If you receive a raise, bonus, tax refund, or a check for your birthday, use that money to make a lump sum payment on your loan balance. Those extra payments can add up and help you eliminate your loans ahead of schedule.
- Pick up a side hustle: For those who need more breathing room in their budget, launching a side hustle can be a great way to earn extra money for debt repayment during your spare time.
- Check with your employer for loan assistance: Some employers often student loan repayment assistance as part of their benefits package. Ask your human resources department if your company has that perk.
- Set up automatic payments: Setting up automatic payments can help prevent missed payments. But, it also can reduce how much you pay in interest. Some lenders offer a 0.25% discount on your interest rate if you sign up for automatic payments.
- Consider refinancing: If you have high-interest loans, refinancing your student debt can help you lower your interest rate and save money. You’ll lose out on some loan benefits if you refinance federal debt, but doing so can ensure more of your money goes towards paying down the principal rather than interest charges.
Managing your student loans
Navigating the student loan system is complex, and it can be confusing. “How much do I owe in student loans?” is an essential question, and figuring out the answer is the first step in managing your loans. Following the above steps can help you identify what loans you have and who services them.
Once you track down both your private and federal student loans, you can use the Student Loan Hero dashboard to learn about repayment options and track your progress.
Kat Tretina contributed to this article.
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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
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2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
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