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Whether you're still in school or no longer attending, keeping tabs on your student loan balance can help you budget for payments and ensure you borrow only what you can pay back. How to check your student loan balance depends on whether you have federal or private student loan debt. Read on for more information on how to find what you owe and strategies for paying down your debt.
How to Check Your Federal Student Loan Balance
Federal student loans are loans that come directly from the government, such as direct loans and direct PLUS loans. Here are two places to review your balances on federal loans.
The Federal Student Aid website
StudentAid.gov is a robust website where you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for loans and review balances on federal loans you've already taken out.
The first step is logging into your StudentAid.gov account with your email, phone or FSA ID username and password. From there, you can check your balances and review what companies are servicing your loans.
According to StudentAid.gov, the outstanding balance on your account might not be the most up to date, so consider following up with your loan servicer to confirm what you owe.
Your School's Financial Aid Office
A second option for getting your balance is reaching out to a counselor at your school's financial aid office to get information about the funds used to cover your tuition and school costs.
Your Credit Report
Student loan balances and payments are typically reported to the three credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion and Equifax—every month. So, if you're unsure of who your lender or the company servicing your loan is, pulling your credit report is a way to see how much you owe.
However, note that loan servicers typically update credit report account information once per month, and not as soon as you make payments. If you make a loan payment in the middle of a billing cycle, you might have to wait for the next month to see the new balance reflected on your credit reports.
How to Check Your Private Student Loan Balance
Private student loans are loans from private lenders like banks, alternative lenders and education institutions. Because these are non-federal loans, you can't check loan balances on the federal loan website. Instead, you can check your balance in these three places.
Your Loan Servicer
A loan servicer is a company that manages customer service and billing for student loans. You can find out who your loan servicer is by contacting your lender, which could be a bank, online lender or credit union. Once you get the servicer's name, there may be an online dashboard where you can set up an account to review your balance, payment history and payment options.
Your School's Financial Aid Office
Your school's financial aid office should be able to provide the balance on institutional loans awarded by the school itself. The office may or may not be able to tell you the balance on other private loans. But if you can get the name of the lender that provided the funds, you could reach out to that lender directly for more information about your balance.
Your Credit Report
In addition to information about any federal student loans you may have, your credit report could contain information related to private student loans. Private student loans are typically reported to all three credit bureaus, just like federal loans, but not every lender will necessarily report your loans to every bureau.
To get a more complete picture of your student loan balances, consider reviewing your credit reports from all three bureaus. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to access them for free.
How to Pay Down Your Student Loan Balances
If your loans are in repayment, coming up with a loan payment strategy can help you eliminate your balance steadily over time. Here are a few tips to help you pay down debt:
- Create a budget. Planning out how to spend your income each month could help you devote more cash to paying down your student loan balances.
- Take advantage of the federal loan pause. If you cannot pay your loans because funds are tight, making use of the temporary student loan payment pause available until further notice could give you some financial breathing room. After payments resume, applying for forbearance or deferment can be another way to get a payment break.
- Get help from your employer. Some employers offer to pay a portion of your student loan debt as an employee benefit, and extra payments can help you tackle balances.
- Increase your income. Putting yourself in the running for higher positions at your job or another company could earn you more money to put towards debt. Side hustling could also increase cash flow so you can pay off debt faster.
- Look for forgiveness options. If you teach or work for a nonprofit organization, you may be able to qualify for student loan forgiveness programs. For example, teachers who work for low-income schools could have up to $17,500 in Direct Loans forgiven after working for five years thanks to the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program. And eligible public servants could have their remaining direct loan balance forgiven after making 10 years of payments under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.
- Apply for income-driven repayment. Applying for an income-driven repayment plan (IDR) could decrease your required monthly payments. Pairing an IDR with strict budgeting can help you funnel more money toward your student loans.
- Make payments while you're in school. Depending on the type of loans you have, you could be accruing interest before you're ever expected to make a payment. Starting to make student loan payments—even if you're just paying the interest—before you're required to can help you decrease the amount you'll have to pay upon graduation.
The Bottom Line
Even if your loans are not yet in repayment, keeping tabs on student loan balances is beneficial because it can help make sure you're keeping debt at a manageable level. If you have questions about what you owe or options to repay your debt, financial aid counselors and loan servicers may be able to help. The StudentAid.gov website also has many resources you can use to review payment plans, debt consolidation options and more.