Many college students borrow multiple federal and private student loans to fund their education. As a result, the question “How much do I owe in student loans?” isn’t always so easy to answer.
Knowing how much you owe in student loans is important for creating a plan to manage your debt. Here are some tips for keeping track of your student loan balance.
Learning how much you owe in student loans
What you originally borrowed to pay for school is likely not what you owe now — unfortunately, you might owe more.
Unless you have federal subsidized loans or made in-school payments, your balances grew over the years you spent in school, due to interest. And depending on your rate, you could end up owing hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars more after graduation than what you originally borrowed.
To find out what you owe with accrued interest, try the following tools for locating your federal and private student loans. Let’s start with federal…
Figuring out how much you owe in federal loans is fairly straightforward. The Federal Student Aid website, which is managed by the Department of Education, compiles all your federal student loans into one place.
To access your account, you’ll need a Federal Student Aid ID. Once logged on, you can review your loan’s original amount, current student loan balance, interest and payment status on your Federal Student Aid dashboard.
Keep in mind that servicers sometimes transfer student loans to other companies. Fortunately, your studentaid.gov account will show if your loan servicer has changed. After identifying your current loan providers, it’s a good idea to reach out to them directly to get the most up-to-date details on your loans.
The National Student Loan Data System (NSCDS) used to be the main provider of federal student loan info. But since 2020, your studentaid.gov account and loan servicers are now the most efficient resources for checking your Department of Education student loans.
Retrieving balances on private loans is slightly trickier than it is for federal loans. While federal loans have the Federal Student Aid dashboard, there’s no national website for private student loans.
In addition, the financial institution that originally issued the loan might outsource the loan servicing elsewhere, or even sell your loans to a different entity.
However, here are some ways to find your private loan balances:
- 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 your student loan balance and current servicer.
- Ask your school for help: If you’re having trouble tracking down your loans, talk to your university’s financial aid office. They can help you identify who currently manages your debt.
- Check your credit report: Credit reports list your current and past credit obligations, including student loans. Here you’ll see the amount you borrowed and the loan servicer, which you can then contact to find the status of your account or make payments. You can obtain a free credit report from the three main credit reporting agencies — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
By doing some detective work, you should be able to find out how much you owe on your private student loans and where to send your monthly payments.
Once you figure out how to check student loan balances, you can devise a strategy to pay them off. Depending on your finances, you can accelerate repayment and save money by doing one or more of the following:
- Use windfalls to pay down debt: Even if you have a tight budget, you can repay your loans more quickly by taking advantage of any windfalls. If you receive a raise, bonus, tax refund or even just a check for your birthday, use that money to make a lump sum payment on your loan balance. Extra payments can add up and help 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 cash for debt repayment during your spare time.
- Check with your employer for loan assistance: Some employers offer student loan repayment assistance as part of their benefits package. Ask your human resources department if your company has such a perk.
- Set up automatic payments: Setting up autopay can help prevent missed payments and reduce how much you pay in interest. Some lenders even offer a 0.25% discount on your interest rate when you sign up for automatic payments.
- Consider refinancing: If you have high-interest loans, refinancing your student debt may help lower your interest rate and save money. This can be an especially good move if you have private student loans. On the other hand, you’ll lose out on certain loan benefits if you refinance federal debt — as such, it’s usually not worth doing so unless the rates on those federal loans are relatively high.
Navigating the student loan system is complex and sometimes confusing. But knowing where to find your student loan balance should make it a little easier.
Not only can you use the above resources to find out how much you owe on your student loans, you can also review your interest rate, monthly payment, repayment term and loan servicer.
After gathering this vital information, you can shift your focus to implementing a plan for repayment. An excellent place to start is with one of our student loan payment calculators. By crunching the numbers, you can take a step closer to conquering your debt, hopefully paying it off ahead of schedule.