As the largest lender of student loans in the United States, the federal government is responsible for tracking over a trillion dollars in student debt.
The government maintains records of when the loan was issued, the type of loan that was issued, the original balance, the current balance, interest rates, and the servicer assigned to the management of the loan.
For borrowers, these records are incredibly useful. Verifying servicer information is a great way to reduce fraud and to make sure that no loan gets lost in the shuffle.
In the past, the Department of Education maintained the National Student Loan Data System or NSLDS. The site wasn’t particularly fancy, but it made tracking down federal records incredibly easy. Sadly, the NSLDS was discontinued, and borrowers must now navigate the StudentAid.gov website to find loan records.
Locating Detailed Federal Student Loan Information
- Step 1: Visit https://studentaid.gov
- Step 2: Log in using your FSA ID.
- Most borrowers should have an FSA ID if they have recently completed the FAFSA or recently applied for an Income-Driven Repayment plan.
- Those that need to create an FSA ID can do it here.
- Use this page if you have forgotten your login credentials.
- When you successfully log in, you will be taken to the federal dashboard.
- Step 3: From the Federal Dashboard, click on the View Details link.
- The View Details link will take borrowers to an Aid Summary.
- The Aid Summary should include all federal loans and federal grants awarded.
- Step 4: From the Aid Summy click on View Breakdown.
- Step 5: For each servicer, click on View Loan.
- At this point, the individual loan details should appear.
- This will show the loan status, the current repayment plan, the interest rate, and the total balance.
- At this point, the individual loan details should appear.
- Step 6: For even more information, click on View Loan Details.
- This page contains records of the loan status history, payments made towards PSLF, and the total payments that have been made to date on the loan.
- The next link at the bottom of the page allows borrowers to review each loan individually.
Things to Keep in Mind about the Federal Database
The federal database contains a trove of information for borrowers, but it isn’t perfect.
There are a couple of major limitations that users should understand.
The information is only as good as the last time it was updated – Like most databases, it isn’t instantly updated. Payments made to servicers will not immediately be reflected in the loan information. The servicer first has to report the information back to the Department of Education so that the student aid website can be updated. As a result, the information could be a month behind.
No records of private loans – Having all student loans in the same place would be very useful, but the government only tracks federal student loans. Borrowers addressing their private student loans will have to track down the records using alternative means. College financial aid websites can be a helpful starting point, and credit reports can be used to fill in missing details.
What Happened to the NSLDS (National Student Loan Data System)?
The NSLDS was a fairly straightforward, no-nonsense way for borrowers to access federal student loan records. The NSLDS wasn’t pretty, but it was a valuable tool for borrowers.
Many in the student loan community were surprised when the Department of Education unexpectedly took down the NSLDS and offered no explanation.
What we do know for sure was that the NSLDS was an older website that contained vast amounts of confidential material. Securing this information may have necessitated a massive change to the existing system.
Additionally, the revamped studentaid.gov is arguably more helpful to student loan borrowers. Even though navigating to the full student loan records is a bit more tedious, the benefit is that most federal student loan resources can now be found in one place. Borrowers looking for loan information can easily navigate to options for repayment and applications for income-driven repayment. Valuable resources like the Federal Loan Simulator, the PSLF Help Tool, and a Loan Consolidation link are all in one place.
From a web design standpoint, the new system is decidedly more modern looking. The updated interface should make navigation easier for borrowers and appear more credible. The old NSLDS was so dated that it appeared to be sketchy, especially to a first time visitor.
The Best Uses for the Federal Student Loan Information
Most borrowers should be able to get basic questions answered from the revised studentaid.gov site.
These records can be especially valuable for the following uses:
Tracking down debt – Different lending programs and new loans each year can mean that borrowers have a dozen or more different federal student loans. When a borrower enters repayment, they may have one servicer, or they could have several. The best way for a borrower to ensure that they are making payments on all of their federal loans is to pull up a list of all of their loans and get contact information for the servicers that have been assigned.
Preventing Fraud – Avoiding student loan fraud has become increasingly difficult for borrowers. As the government changes servicers, borrowers have come to expect that servicer assignments occasionally change. When a company like Experian has a data breach, would-be scammers can gain access to borrower names, contact information, and loan balances. If a student loan bill appears from a new company, the federal records are the best way to verify that the bill is legitimate.
Planning Strategy – Which loan do I pay off first? Should I be paying down debt or saving for retirement? How long will it take to eliminate my student debt? Should I consider student loan refinancing? What repayment plan is best for my situation?
Many student loan questions can be tough to answer. Without detailed records, borrowers risk mistakes and missed opportunities.