You’ve just finished college. Congratulations! Now companies that you have never heard of are telling you that you owe them thousands of dollars for student loans. How do you figure out who can collect money from you? What happened to the lender who gave you the loans three years ago?
There are two fundamental types of student loans, federal loans and private loans (you can read about the differences here). Locating the proper person/entity to repay these loans will depend upon whether the debt is federal or private.
Federal Government Loans:
These are the easy ones to track down. The Federal Government maintains a website called the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) at the following address: https://www.nslds.ed.gov/. If you go to the NSLDS and click on the link for financial aid review, you will be prompted to enter your identifying information. After you authenticate yourself you will arrive at a page that has a list of all of your federal loans. Each loan has a link that will show you details about the loan terms. The current servicer is the one who should be sending and receiving the bills for that particular loan.
Finding the holder of these loans is a little bit more tricky. A good starting point would be your credit report. All Americans are entitled to a free copy of their credit report every year. Not only is this a good practice to get into, but your credit report will provide information about all parties that claim you owe them money and it will provide you with their contact information. (If you suspect fraud, you should alert the credit agency and consider contacting an attorney.) If you have access to your old financial aid paperwork, its helpful to compare these documents against the information available on your credit report. Remember, because of the way interest grows during college it entirely possible that the outstanding balance of the loan will be much larger than the amount that you were initially given.
After you have successfully located all of your student loan debt, take a deep breath. The numbers you just saw are likely larger than you expected, and you are wondering how you are ever going to pay all this student loan debt back. Fear not, because there are many resources available to ensure that you meet your student loan obligations AND still have enough money to put food on your plate and a roof over your head.