Thinking about taking out a loan or interested in learning more about a loan you already have? You’re in the right place! In this module you will learn more about:
If you already have a loan, there are a few things you should be sure you know! By logging into studentaid.gov, you will be able to find information on all your existing federal student loans. This is also a great website to learn more about federal loans in general!
As a borrower, you should be able to answer a few questions:
- Who is your lender? → This is the organization that loans you money, it could be the Department of Education, a school, a bank, etc.
- Who is your servicer? → They are in charge of handling billing and other services on your loan
- What is the interest rate? → A fee on borrowed money that is calculated as a percentage of your unpaid balance
- How long will it take to pay off your loan?
- How much will you end up paying in total?
If you can answer these questions, you’re well on your way to being an informed and responsible borrower! In the rest of this module we’ll talk more about what to consider before and after borrowing and introduce you to some cool resources!
What is a loan?
For many students, affording college while only using savings, scholarships, and grants is not possible so a loan is needed. A loan is money you borrow from a lender that has to be paid back with interest over a period of time.
To be eligible for Federal loans, it is important to fill out one of the following applications:
I need a loan, who should I borrow from?
When it comes to taking a student loan, federal loans should always be the first place you look! Why? Because federal loans generally have lower interest rates, greater protections for borrowers, and more flexibility for repayment and forgiveness. Check your award letter to see what your federal options are:
- Subsidized: offered to students with demonstrated financial need. The loan is “subsidized” because you will not be charged interest while you are in school (at least half-time), for the first six months after you leave school, and when the loan is in deferment (with exception).
- Unsubsidized: not dependent on financial need. Award value varies based on a variety of factors, like dependency status or grade level.
- PLUS: loans for a dependent student’s parent or legal guardian
If you need to borrow more money than is federally available to you, then you may have to consider private loans. Private loans can generally be found through a school, bank, credit union, or other lending institution. When considering a private loan, it is important to explore your options, avoid scams and deceptive practices, and to fully understand the terms of your loan (interest rate, default, fees, penalties, and benefits).
What should I know about my loan?
If you have existing loans or are thinking about taking out new loans, you should know the answer to the following questions:
- Who is your lender?
- For federal loans, your lender could be the Department of Education, your school, or a commercial company (sometimes called a guarantor). For private loans, your lender may be your school, bank, credit union, or other lending institution you borrowed from.
- Who is your servicer?
- Your servicer is the company that handles the billing and other services on your loan
- What is the interest rate?
- Interest is a loan fee charged for the use of borrowed money. Interest is paid by a borrower to a lender. The fee is calculated as a percentage of the unpaid principal amount of the loan.
- When is interest on my loans capitalized?
- Interest is typically capitalized:
- Following a period of deferment on unsubsidized loans or forbearance of any loans
- After the grace period on an unsubsidized loan
- If you voluntarily leave the PAYE, REPAYE, or IBR plans
- If you fail to update your income for an Income-Driven Repayment Plan
- Your income is too high for the PAYE or IBR plans
- Interest is typically capitalized:
- How long will it take to pay off and how much will you end up paying in total?
- It can take you anywhere from 5-25 years to pay off your student loans. It will depend on many factors including the amount you borrowed, your income and the type of repayment plan you are on
- The Loan Simulator can give you insight into different scenarios
Where can I learn more about my student loan?
Federal Student Loans
To learn the specifics of your student loans, you will need to sign in to studentaid.gov with your FSA ID – the same username and password you used to complete the FAFSA. Here you can learn more about applying for financial aid and different types of financial aid. They also break out information depending on if you are thinking about going to college, are currently in college, are a parent, or are in the repayment phase.
You can also learn more about your loans by visiting the website of your student loan servicers. If you don’t know who your servicer is, start with studentaid.gov.
Private Student Loans
To find information on your private student loans, visit the website or contact your lender. If you don’t know who owns your student loans, or if they are in collections and you don’t know who to contact, you can view your credit report to find out. To view each of your three credit reports, visit www.annualcreditreport.com. You can view each credit report for free each year.
Check Your Understanding
#1. What is the difference between a subsidized and an unsubsidized loan?
Incorrect: You will need to fill out the FAFSA (or WASFA) by the deadline before each year of school
#2. Your lender is always your servicer (the company that handles the billing and other services on your loan)
Incorrect: for federal loans your lender is generally the Department of Education and your servicer is a different company (this may be true of private loans as well)
#3. Which of the following is true about taking out a student loan?
A is incorrect: Unlike scholarships and grants, loans have to be repaid with interest
B is incorrect: if you are offered a loan for $1,000 you could choose to only accept $700
C is CORRECT: loans should be one of the last options you consider when thinking about paying for college. If you do take out loans, you should try to take as little loan money as possible.
D is incorrect: only accept as much loan money as you need to meet your college costs
#4. If you need to take out a student loan, you should accept the federal loans that have been offered to you before looking into private loans.
Incorrect: federal loans generally have lower interest rates, more flexibility for repayment and forgiveness, and more protections for borrowers than private loans
#5. If you want to learn more about your federal student loans, log in to studentaid.gov
Incorrect: federal loans are made by the Department of Education, their website can give you more information about federal loans you have