When I graduated from college, I had no idea how to view my federal student loans — and my ballooning balance. I knew that all of my small $2,000 and $3,000 loans had mounted, but I wasn’t sure exactly how much I owed.
After speaking with my school’s financial aid office, I pulled my free credit report via AnnualCreditReport.com to learn the precise amount of my education debt. Since then, however, I’ve learned that there’s a much better way to calculate your student loan debt. It’s called the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS).
What is the National Student Loan Data System?
The NSLDS is a student loan database that keeps track of individuals’ federal education debt. It stores all of your information so you can access it at any time.
Besides displaying your loan amounts, the NSLDS will show each debt’s status. Yours could be enjoying your grace period or another type of deferment, or you could be in repayment, default or paid up.
The database also breaks down the type of loan you have so you can differentiate between subsidized and unsubsidized loans. Keep in mind that any Parent PLUS Loans that were borrowed in your mom or dad’s name won’t appear in this space. The same goes for your private student loan debt if you have any.
While plans are underway to overhaul how student loans are tracked and serviced, the NSLDS is currently the best first stop to make when you’re looking for information about your federal student loans. Just be sure to protect your FSA ID and password by finding the correct website — the URL in your browser should read “nslds.ed.gov,” and the homepage will probably look something like this:
How does the NSLDS get my student loan information?
I consolidated my loans after I graduated, but the NSLDS showed each of my original loans, plus the consolidated loans, which were around $16,000 each respectively.
Because the original loans were paid off through consolidation, the database has marked them with a $0 value.
As you can see, once you’re logged in to the NSLDS, you can view your total federal loan debt to the exact dollar amount. The information is sourced from colleges and universities across the country, which send your loan data to the NSLDS.
If you’re still in school, be aware that new loans are reported to the student loan database within a month of disbursement. If you’ve been in repayment, meanwhile, keep in mind that the outstanding balances posted by the NSLDS could be as much as 120 days old. For more up-to-date information, you could log into your servicer’s online portal or contact their customer service.
If you find your NSLDS loan information to be incorrect, rather than just out of date, contact your school or loan servicer. If you’re unsuccessful, you can reach the NSLDS directly via snail mail:
Director, National Student Loan Data System, FSA
U.S. Department of Education, UCP
830 First Street NE, 4th Floor,
What do I need to sign up for NSLDS access?
If you’ve never logged in before, the process is straightforward. Logging in recently took me only a few minutes.
You’ll need a valid email address and Social Security number, and you’ll have to set up security questions which you would answer if you need to recover your username or password.
To log in for the first time, click “Financial Aid Review” on the homepage. When you reach the login screen, click the tab that says, “Create An FSA ID.”
You’ll have to follow a few more basic steps before you can get access to your information. Then you can log in as many times as you want to check on your student loan amounts.
Keep an eye out for high-interest student loans
When reviewing your loans within NSLDS, it’s also worth noting any loans with especially high interest rates. While federal student loans generally carry low rates, any that don’t could be good candidates for refinancing with a private lender.
Student loan refinancing allows you to replace one or more loans with a single private loan, possibly with lower monthly payments and a lower interest rate. Alternatively, you can also use refinancing to shorten the terms on your loans, which could raise your monthly payment but save you money on interest costs.
A student loan refinancing calculator can make sense of the math. Input your combined federal loan information, which you can grab from NSLDS, plus your potential refinancing terms — you can get a sense of refinancing rates comparing quotes online. Then the calculator will pump out your potential savings.
To qualify for refinancing, you’ll need a strong credit score, plus steady employment and income. Adding a creditworthy cosigner to your application, however, could make up for deficiencies in this area.
As lovely as the rewards may sound, refinancing isn’t right for every borrower. If you count on your federal loan protections — a list that includes access to Income-Driven Repayment plans, mandatory forbearance and pathways to loan forgiveness — you’re likely better off keeping your loans where they are.
Before making a decision, weigh your options, as refinancing with a private lender is irreversible and immediately strips your debt of these government-only safeguards.
The National Student Loan Data System is a great first stop
If you have student loan debt, it’s important to you know just how much you owe.
Trust me, I know it’s not fun to look at the amounts. I didn’t like seeing my approximately $32,000 balance at all.
However, I know that knowledge is power, and the NSLDS helped me learn how to view my federal student loans. And now that I know how much I have to pay back, I’m one step closer to accomplishing my goal of being debt-free.
You should use the NSLDS to paint an accurate picture of your student loan debt. When you start paying them off, log in frequently to see your balance drop. Visiting the student loan database will keep you motivated and allow you to track your progress.
Andrew Pentis contributed to this report.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2019!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
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1 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
2 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 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.54% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.27% 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 March 18, 2019, 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 0318/2019. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
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.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.
All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.5% effective February 10, 2019.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.54% – 7.12%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.54% – 7.27%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.67% – 8.96%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.23% – 6.65%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.69% – 7.43%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.98% – 9.72%6||Undergrad & Graduate|