With a trillion dollars in student loans out there, it’s no surprise that keeping track of all your loans can be a little daunting. This is especially true when you can’t tell what company owns your loan. Fall behind in payments, and you can go into delinquency or default, which may have serious consequences. In addition, sometimes student loan lenders or servicers make big mistakes, and so through no fault of your own, you may be reported as behind on your payments. This can impact your credit score and ability to get new credit, housing, or employment. Just look at the recent shenanigans with the new federal student loan servicer as an example of what happens when student loan servicers mess up.
So what can you do? Here are three simple ways of keeping tabs on your student loans.
- The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). This is a federal database that shows fairly up-to-date information on all of your federal student loans. This includes Direct federal loans (loans lent directly by the U.S. Department of Education), and FFEL loans, also known as federally-gauranteed loans (for a description of the differences between these types of loans, check out my earlier post here.). This is a great way to tell which of your student loans are federal, and which are purely private. The database will also tell you the status of your federal student loans, i.e., whether they are in repayment, grace, deferment, or forbearance, and whether they are delinquent or defaulted. You can access the database here: www.nslds.ed.gov.
- Get A Copy of Your Credit Report. Your credit report should list all of your student loans, the current status of those loans (as reported to the credit bureaus by the loan servicers), and your monthly payment. This is a great way to make sure that your credit report accurately reflects reality — for example, if you’ve never missed a payment, your credit report should reflect that. Everyone is entitled to one free credit report each year, which is available here:www.annualcreditreport.com. This is the only website authorized by the federal government to provide your free annual credit report. You can also pay a nominal monthly fee to one of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) to get monthly credit report updates and alerts for any substantial changes to your credit report; I do this, and I have to say, the feeling of security is definitely worth the price. If you find out that you have inaccurate information on your credit report, there are ways to challenge the inaccuracies and get them removed.
- Contact Your Loan Servicer. If you’ve checked NSLDS and your credit report and something still doesn’t seem quite right, you can always contact your loan servicer directly. They should be able to give you all the relevant information on your student loan (regardless of whether it is federal or private), including its current status and your payment history. If you can’t get the proper information from the first customer service representative that you speak to, don’t be shy about asking to speak with a supervisor.