Note that the situation for student loans has changed due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and relief efforts from the government, student loan lenders and others. Check out our Student Loan Hero Coronavirus Information Center for additional news and details.
* * *
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
- 8 possible ways to manage your loans on StudentAid.gov
- StudentAid.gov contact information
- Final thoughts on making use of StudentAid.gov’s valuable guidance
Among other tasks, the FSA ID will allow you to:
- Apply for repayment plans
- Complete loan counseling
- Use the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Help Tool
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
- Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment (REPAYE)
- Pay As You Earn Repayment (PAYE)
- Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
- Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 9 lenders of 2021!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|1.89% – 6.15%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 5.64%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 6.84%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.91% – 5.25%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.25% – 6.53%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.15% – 4.42%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.89% – 5.90%7||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.39% – 6.01%||Undergrad |
|2.00% – 5.63%8||Undergrad & Graduate|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews! |
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 1, 2021.
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 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% 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 October 26, 2020, 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 10/26/2020. 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 protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 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 CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. 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 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.
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.
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 02/17/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.91% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
6 Important Disclosures for PenFed.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.89%-4.78% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.15%-4.42% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. 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.
7 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.
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 January 4, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
8 Important Disclosures for Nelnet.
Checking your rate results in a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. If you continue with your application, Nelnet Bank will request your permission to obtain your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies. This is a hard credit pull and may affect your credit score.
Interest rate reduction of .25% for automatically withdrawn payments from any designated bank account (“auto debit discount”). Auto debit discount applies when full payments (including both principal and interest) are automatically drafted from a bank account. The auto debit discount will continue to apply during periods of approved forbearance or deferment if the auto debit discount was in effect at the time of receiving the forbearance or deferment. Auto debit discount will remain on the account unless (1) the automatic deduction of payments is canceled or (2) there are three consecutive automatic deductions returned for insufficient funds at any time during the term of the loan.
Request for the cosigner to be released can be made by the borrower after 24 consecutive, on-time payments (not later than 15 days after the due date) of principal and interest have been made. Borrowers in deferment or forbearance must make 24 consecutive, on-time payments after re-entering repayment to qualify for the release. The borrower must be current on their payments at the time of the cosigner release request and show the ability to assume full responsibility of the loan(s) by meeting certain credit criteria on their own at the time of the request, including, but not limited to, being a U.S. citizen or having permanent residency in the United States, being the age of majority in their permanent state of residency, providing sufficient proof of income, and having no student loans in default.
Hardship forbearance allows you to temporarily suspend payments on your loan(s) while you are experiencing financial hardship. It is offered in increments of two or three months, with a maximum of 12 months available, in aggregate, over the life of the loan. If your loan(s) are in good standing at the time of your request, you will be eligible for forbearance in increments of two monthly payments. If, at the time of your initial request, your loan(s) are considered past-due, you will be eligible for forbearance in increments of three monthly payments. Future increments of forbearance, up to a life-time maximum of 12 months, may be requested upon the completion of making a certain number of principal and interest payments. During the two- or three-month forbearance period, you will not be required to make payments; however, any unpaid interest will continue to accrue and will be capitalized (added) onto your principal balance at the end of the forbearance period. You may continue making payments in any amount without penalty during the forbearance period. Your loan repayment term will be extended by the number of months in the forbearance period.
Refinance Loan Eligibility: You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security number, and be the legal age to enter into binding contracts in your permanent state/territory of residency, or be at least 17 years of age and apply with a cosigner who is at least the age of majority in their state/territory. Non-residents can apply with an eligible cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security number. The student loans you refinance must be in their grace or repayment period, and you can no longer be enrolled in school on a half-time or more basis. You must have at least $5,000 in student loans to refinance. You, or your eligible cosigner, must have an annual income of at least $36,000. Approval subject to credit review. Other credit criteria may apply.
Refinance Loan Limits:
Loan Refinancing Risks: Federal student loans include benefits that may not be offered with private student loans. Carefully review any potential benefits that may be lost by refinancing federal and private education loans, such as the loss of any remaining grace periods. To learn more about what to take into consideration when refinancing federal student loans with private education loans, click here
Selecting ‘Get Started’ results in a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. If you continue with your application, Nelnet Bank will request your permission to obtain your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies. This is a hard credit pull and may affect your credit score.
Fixed interest rates range from 2.99% APR (with auto debit discount) to 6.25% APR (without auto debit discount). Your interest rate will depend on your (and if applicable, your cosigner’s) credit qualifications. The fixed interest rate will remain the same for the life of the loan.
Variable interest rates range from 2.00% APR (with auto debit discount) to 5.63% APR (without auto debit discount). Your interest rate will depend on your (and if applicable, your cosigner’s) credit qualifications. Variable rates may increase after consummation. The variable interest rate is equal to the One-Month London Interbank Offered Rate (“One-Month LIBOR”) plus a margin. The One-Month LIBOR in effect for each monthly period (from the first day of the month through and including the last day of the same month) will be the highest One-Month LIBOR published in The Wall Street Journal “Money Rates” table on the twenty-fifth (25th) day (or if such day is not a business day, the next business day thereafter) of the month immediately preceding such calendar month. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for a variable interest rate loan will change monthly on the first day of each month if the One-Month LIBOR index changes. This may result in higher monthly payments. The current One-Month LIBOR index is 0.15% as of 5/4/2021.
The lowest interest rate for each loan type requires automatically withdrawn (“auto debit”) payments, a five-year repayment term, and the borrower making immediate principal and interest payments. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rate. The interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) may be higher depending upon (1) the credit history of the borrower and, if applicable, the cosigner, (2) the repayment option and loan term selected, (3) the loan type selected, and (4) the highest level of education attained. If approved, applicants will be notified of the rate qualified for within the stated range.
*Checking your rate results in a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. If you continue with your application, Nelnet Bank will request your permission to obtain your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies. This is a hard credit pull and may affect your credit score. **Your actual savings may vary based on interest rates, outstanding balances, remaining repayment terms, and other factors.