How to Use StudentAid.gov to Take Control of Your Federal Debt

 September 30, 2020
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Once upon a time, student borrowers accessed four websites when managing their federal loans — StudentAid.gov, StudentLoans.gov, fsaid.ed.gov and nslds.ed.gov. Now the services of all four websites are consolidated into the one-stop-shop version of StudentAid.gov.

This means you can complete multiple tasks — including filling out your FAFSA, learning about the different types of aid you can get, receiving counseling and managing your repayment plans – all on one site.

For more detail on how to use StudentAid.gov to manage and repay your student loan debt, let’s go over the following topics:

Getting started by creating your FSA ID

If you are a federal student loan borrower who wants to use StudentAid.gov to manage your student loan debt, you’ll need to create a FSA ID. This will allow you to access the entire site.

Among other tasks, the FSA ID will allow you to:

In order to sign up, you’ll have to have your Social Security number handy, as well as your phone number and/or email address. You will also have to create a username and password, as well as answer security questions so you can retrieve your account information just in case you forget either one. Once you create your FSA ID, you will be able to instantly access the site in order to fill out the FAFSA, but you’ll have to wait up to three days in order to access it for anything else, including managing your student loans.

8 possible ways to manage your loans on StudentAid.gov

Here are eight key ways you can manage your student loan debt on StudentAid.gov. You won’t necessarily need to (or want to) do all of them, but each is worth at least knowing about:

1. Find and manage your student loans
2. Use the Loan Simulator Tool to optimize your repayment plan
3. Apply for an IDR plan
4. Complete mandatory counseling
5. Apply for student loan consolidation
6. Track your progress toward loan forgiveness
7. Find information on avoiding delinquency and default
8. Find forms and get more help

1. Find and manage your student loans

You can find all your federal loan information on StudentAid.gov. The site displays information from the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS), a database that has information on federal aid for students and parents across the U.S. You will not have any kind of history until your loans have been dispersed to you.

You can also locate your student loan servicer’s information through the site. Your loan servicer is assigned to you by the Department of Education, and is designed to assist you with repayment and other services related to your student loan. You can find a list of all federal student loan servicers here, along with their contact information. You can also call the Federal Student Aid Information Center  at 1-800-433-3243.

The StudentAid.gov site notes that you may be assigned a repayment plan to start, but you can always change your repayment plan, for free. In order to do so, you’ll want to directly contact your loan servicer to discuss repayment plan options.

Typically you will make payments directly to your loan servicer. However, at press time, the developing NextGen student loan services platform from StudentAid.gov is promising to move repayment to one place for all student loan borrowers. As of now, StudentAid.gov notes that it is accepting direct payments if your loans are serviced by Nelnet and its subsidiary Great Lakes, both of which will be discontinued as servicers past 2021. That said, at press time, you could still make those payments directly to each servicer.

2. Use the Loan Simulator Tool to optimize your repayment plan

If you want to figure out the best repayment plan for your situation, StudentAid.gov features a Loan Simulator Tool to help you do that. This tool allows you to get a look at the plans for which you may be eligible and see estimates for your monthly payments before you contact your student loan servicer about specific plans.

Based on the information you provide, and your specific needs and goals, the tool will recommend a repayment plan and also allow you to look into options such as making extra payments or consolidating your loans. If you are already making payments and struggling with them, you can use the tool to figure out whether you should temporarily stop payments, or lower your monthly payment.

At press time, the site said the tool would soon offer a simulator to find out what may happen if you decide to borrow more money for educational expenses, including if you are looking to return to school or if you are going to graduate later than originally planned.

3. Apply for an IDR plan

Using the Loan Simulator Tool may inspire you to switch to an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. These plans limit your payments to a percentage of your income. If you do decide you want to take advantage of one of these plans, you will apply through StudentAid.gov.

For borrowers new to IDR

You can apply for one of the federal government’s four IDR plans and limit their monthly payment to a percentage of their income. You may choose one of these plans:

The application takes approximately 10 minutes to complete.

If you are married and you and your spouse routinely file a joint tax return, your payment will be determined by your combined income. That explains why IDR applications must be cosigned by a spouse, if you have one. This requirement can also be completed on StudentAid.gov.

As long as the spouse has their applicant’s reference code and Social Security number, he or she can enter their information and digitally sign the IDR request within around 10 minutes. Unlike when borrowers use a traditional federal loan cosigner, spouses aren’t promising to repay the loan by signing their name.

For borrowers already using IDR

This section of StudentAid.gov allows returning applicants to:

  • Provide updated income and family-size information to recertify an IDR plan
  • Request to reduce your monthly payment because of a change in income or family size
  • Switch from one IDR plan to another

Recertification is required annually, while you can request a lower payment or switch IDR plans at any time.

4. Complete mandatory counseling

You can complete mandatory entrance and exit counseling through StudentAid.gov. This counseling helps students prepare to repay their loans. You must complete exit counseling if you have received a subsidized or unsubsidized federal loan and you have left school for any reason, including graduation, or dropped below half-time enrollment. There is separate exit counseling for any students who have received a TEACH grant.

There are also optional resources, such as Finance Awareness Counseling, that could be helpful for new borrowers. Similarly, credit-deficient applicants for PLUS Loans can fulfill their own federal requirement: Sitting through a PLUS Credit Counseling session.

5. Apply for student loan consolidation

If you’ve decided to consolidate your federal loans into one Direct Consolidation Loan, StudentAid.gov is the place to get it done. It only takes 30 minutes to fill in the application, as long as you have all the needed information ready.

You will need your FSA ID, as well as personal and financial information. You should know the following details of your loans (even those you don’t plan to consolidate):

  • Loan type
  • Full name and mailing address of the loan holder or the servicer
  • Account number (found on your statement)
  • Estimated amount needed to pay off the loan

You could also indicate that you’d like your consolidation delayed until your grace period expires. This is a nice option for recent grads who are planning ahead. You can delay consolidation between one and nine months.

After completing the application, you’ll select your loan servicer. For borrowers with a particular distaste for an existing servicer, being able to choose your own is a plus. You cannot typically choose your federal student loan servicer unless you are consolidating or refinancing your loans. Refinancing replaces your existing debt with a new loan, and you typically must switch to a private lender when refinancing federal loans.

If you don’t want to complete the application digitally, there are instructions to do so on paper. This will require downloading, printing and mailing your documents to your servicer.

6. Track your progress toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness and other forms of discharge

If you have a direct federal loan and are entering a professional field that you believe allows for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, StudentAid.gov offers this tool to help you:

  • Understand more about the program and how you might qualify to have the remaining balance on your loan forgiven after you have made 120 qualifying payments.
  • Figure out whether your employer qualifies for the program (often you will have to work in a service profession, such as teaching or the medical field, in an underserved area).
  • Help you decide which form you should submit.
  • Generate a partially completed form for your employer to sign for you to submit to FedLoan Servicing, the servicer that handles all forgiveness loans.

Read our review of the PSLF Help tool here. You can track your progress toward forgiveness on the site, once you’ve submitted your Employment Certification Form.

The site also provides information on how you might be able to eliminate your debt through teacher loan forgiveness, a closed school discharge, a Perkins Loan cancellation and discharge, a total and permanent disability discharge or discharge in bankruptcy (very rare but sometimes possible).

7. Find information on avoiding delinquency and default

The one thing you always want to avoid when it comes to your student loans is going into default. This can have a terrible effect on your credit, and even cost you your dream job. Your federal loan is considered delinquent if you don’t make a payment for 90 days, and is in default if you have missed payments for 270 days. Once your loan is delinquent, your servicer may report it to the three major national credit bureaus.

StudentAid.gov offers this section to help borrowers understand delinquency and default, and what to do if you are mistakenly put into default. Always remember that your student loan servicer can work with you on reworking your payment plan or going into deferment or forbearance if you are struggling to make your payments. Because of the relative flexibility offered by student lenders, you should never have to go into delinquency or default.

8. Find forms and get more help

If you can’t get a task completed or a question answered on StudentAid.gov, the site will tell you where you can find some of this information. It suggests, for example, to contact your school’s financial aid office for questions about a loan’s disbursement date and your loan servicer for questions about your balance.

If you’re not sure how to find a particular form – or don’t know which form you need – head to the site’s Forms Center. Here you can find downloadable application forms for anything related to repayment, deferment, forbearance and discharge and forgiveness.

You can also be directed to the appropriate document or documents by answering a series of questions about your situation. Someone who can’t afford a current monthly payment and needs to press the pause button, for example, would be directed to a list of deferment and forbearance options.

The site also features a virtual assistant called Aidan. At press time, the tool was in beta, meaning it was only available to some users. As of now, the tool is able to answer questions such as “What is my account balance?” and help you find specific pages on the site, access customer support information, find your servicer and more. To find out if you have access to Aidan, log into your account and look for the Aidan owl icon in the bottom-right corner of any page on the site.

StudentAid.gov contact information

The main phone number for StudentAid.gov is 1-800-433-3243. You can also email them at [email protected], or live chat directly on the site.

Telephone support is available Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

The site also provides a helpful FAQ and glossary page.

Final thoughts on making use of StudentAid.gov’s valuable guidance

StudentAid.gov is a valuable one-stop resource shop to help you manage your loans. Take advantage of all the information and tools offered there to help you better manage your student loan debt.

You can also go here to follow the latest information on the NextGen platform, and how your student loan payments will be managed going forward. Here, as well, is our comprehensive guide to paying off your student loans.

Andrew Pentis contributed to this report.

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1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount

The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.

To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of May 4, 2022.


2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

Student Loan Refinance Interest Rate Disclosure Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 2.99% APR to 8.24% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.99% APR to 8.24% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. The maximum rate for your loan is 8.95% if your loan term is 10 years or less. For loan terms of more than 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%. Please note, we are not able to offer variable rate loans in AK, IL, MN, NH, OH, TN, and TX. Let us know if you have any questions and feel free to reach out directly to our team.


3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

Fixed rates range from 3.49% APR to 7.99% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Variable rates from 1.74% APR to 7.99% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law, Variable Interest rates on 5-, 7-, and 10-year terms are capped at 8.95% APR; 15- and 20-year terms are capped at 9.95% APR. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on the term you select, evaluation of your creditworthiness, income, presence of a co-signer and a variety of other factors. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. This benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit lowers your interest rate but does not change the amount of your monthly payment. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi.


4 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

All credit products are subject to credit approval.

Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.

As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

  1. Checking your rate with Laurel Road only requires a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
  2. Savings vary based on rate and term of your existing and refinanced loan(s). Refinancing to a longer term may lower your monthly payments, but may also increase the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Refinancing to a shorter term may increase your monthly payments, but may lower the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Review your loan documentation for total cost of your refinanced loan.
  3. After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship. During any period of forbearance interest will continue to accrue. At the end of the forbearance period, any unpaid accrued interest will be capitalized and be added to the remaining principle amount of the loan.
  4. Automatic Payment (“AutoPay”) Discount: if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically from a bank account, the interest rate will decrease by 0.25% and will increase back if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically from the borrower’s bank account. The 0.25% AutoPay discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the discount is applied to the principal to help pay the loan down faster.

Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.

Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.

Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.

Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.

KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.

This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
 


5 Important Disclosures for Navient.

Navient Disclosures

You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 2.99% – 8.24% APR (2.74% – 7.99% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 1.99% APR to 8.24% APR (1.74% – 7.99% APR with Auto Pay discount). Variable rates are based on an index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) plus a margin. Variable rates are reset monthly based on the fluctuation of the index. We do not currently offer variable rate loans in AK, CO, CT, HI, IL, KY, MA, MN, MS, NH, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA.


6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

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.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 5/17/2022 student loan refinancing rates range from 2.05% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.49% APR – 7.93% Fixed APR with AutoPay.


7 Important Disclosures for PenFed.

PenFed Disclosures

Fixed Rate Loan Terms: 5 years/60 monthly payments, 8 years/96 monthly payments, 12 years/144 monthly payments or 15 years/180 monthly payments. Annual Percentage Rate is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed rates range from 3.29% to 5.43% APR. Rates are subject to change without notice. Fixed APR: Fixed rates will not change during the term. This rate is expressed as an APR. Since there are no fees associated with this loan offer, the APR is the same percentage as the actual interest rate of the loan. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.


8 Important Disclosures for CitizensBank.

CitizensBank Disclosures

Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure:  Variable interest rates range from 1.99%-8.38% (1.99%-8.38% APR). Fixed  interest rates range from 2.99%-8.63% (2.99%-8.63% APR).

IS Variable Rate Disclosure:  Variable Rates advertised are based on the one-month London Interbank  Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business  day, of the preceding calendar month. As of December 1, 2021, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.09%.  Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will  vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. Your final variable rate may  be based upon the 30-day average SOFR index, as published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.  The maximum variable rate is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%.

ERL Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates are based on the 30-day average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”) index, as published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As of May 1, 2022, the 30-day average SOFR index is 0.29%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the SOFR index, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable interest rate is the greater of 21.00% or the prime rate plus 9.00%.

Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.

Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates are only available for the most creditworthy applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate or medical degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.

Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits:  Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer. Borrowers should carefully review federal benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are considering possible loan forgiveness options, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision on our website including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
 
Citizens Student Loan Eligibility: : Applicants must be enrolled at least half-time in a degree-granting program at an eligible institution.
 
Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DC, DE, FL, MA, MD, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, VA, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
 
Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure:Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount. Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on  their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan  servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to  successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month  period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.