6 Things You Must Know About Repaying Your Student Loans

When it comes to repaying your federal student loans, there’s a lot to consider. But, by taking the time to understand the details of repayment, you can save yourself time and money. This should help you get started.

When do I begin repaying my federal student loans?

You don’t have to begin repaying most federal student loans until after you leave college or drop below half-time enrollment. Many federal student loans will even have a grace period. The grace period gives you time to get financially settled and to select your repayment plan. Note that for most loans, interest will accrue during your grace period.

Your loan servicer or lender will provide you with a loan repayment schedule that states when your first payment is due, the number and frequency of payments, and the amount of each payment.

Whom do I pay?

You will make your federal student loan payments to your loan servicer*, not the U.S. Department of Education directly. The Department uses several loan servicers to handle the billing and other services on federal student loans. Your loan servicer can work with you to choose a repayment plan and can answer any questions you have about your federal student loans. It’s important to maintain contact with your loan servicer and keep your servicer informed of any changes to your address, e-mail, or phone number so they know where to send correspondence and how to contact you.

How much do I need to pay?

Your bill will tell you how much to pay. Your payment (usually made monthly) depends on

  • the type of loan you received,
  • how much money you borrowed,
  • the interest rate on your loan, and
  • the repayment plan you choose.

You can use our repayment estimator to estimate your monthly payments under different repayment plans to determine which option is right for you. Just remember, if you would like to switch repayment plans, you must contact your loan servicer.

How do I make my student loan payments?

There are several ways you can submit payments to your loan servicer, including options to submit your payment online through your loan servicer’s website.

TIP: Your servicer may offer the option to have your payments automatically withdrawn from your bank account each month. You may want to consider this option so you don’t forget to make your payments.

What should I do if I’m having trouble making my student loan payments?

Contact your loan servicer as soon as possible. You may be able to change your repayment plan to one that will allow you to have a longer repayment period or to one that is based on your income. Also, ask your loan servicer about your options for a deferment or forbearance or loan consolidation.

Note: Several third-party companies offer student loan assistance for a fee. Most of these services can be obtained for free from your loan servicer.

What happens if I don’t make my payments?

Not making your student loan payments can result in default, which negatively impacts your credit score. This may affect your ability to borrow for things like buying a car or purchasing a home. Your tax refunds may also be withheld and applied to your outstanding student loan debt. There is never a reason to default. The Department of Education offers several options to ensure that you can successfully manage your student loans. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or having difficulty making payments, contact your loan servicer for help.

*If you are repaying federal student loans made by a private lender (before July 1, 2010), you may be required to make payments directly to that lender. 

Nicole Callahan is a digital engagement strategist at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid


  1. Sounds like Jane should consult an attorney for assistance. She could even contact a local law school. Often they will offer free assistance from their 3rd year law students who are supervised by their professors who are generally licensed attorneys.

    Anyone who is considered totally and permanently disabled by social security should check the student loan website which discusses options for those on disability as student loans may be discharged if one is totally and permanently disabled and can provide valid documentation from the social security administration or a physician. Google Total and Permanent Disability Discharge of Student Loans.

  2. More perhaps intended or unintended confusion on the part of USDOE and the loan servicers. “You will make your federal student loan payments to your loan servicer*, not the U.S. Department of Education directly..” True that the payments go to the servicers however certain of these servicers also request the payments on checks et al list the USDOE as the payee. When USDOE transferred the direct lending program over to some of the new servicers lots of confusion on that one with servicers, borrowers and etc. Along with non timely processing of payments, non processing and etc…almost just like the bad old days of the sub loan program.
    Hapless irony is that the direct lending program was intended to reform the rampant abuses and corruption of the sub loan system but then Obama/Duncan allowed some of the worst offenders back into the fold to service these loans.
    Reality is SLAB’s, questionable debt laws, and some trillions of student debt are a unsustainable mess, and it would be better for our nation to end this generational debacle. If treasury and the fed can hand out the trillions already given away on various QE’s, TARP, TARF’s if the will was present our nation could end these student loans also and within months…and that could be the salvation of our shattered productive economy and a deeply troubled middle class.
    Look to congress, the president and the financial sector to see who is allowing this destructive economic disaster to continue…it’s been one of the ruins of the middle class but any reforms are too little, compromised or blocked.

  3. I am another person with loans in default that I cannot pay back. I am on social security and there’s no way for me to pay these back (approx $36K with interest) before I die. My husband is on disability and there have been multiple health and disability issues in our family. I was a real estate agent, but when I tried to renew my license, I had to answer the question about whether I had any educational loans (for my daughter – two $5K loans) in default…I told the truth and now $209 is being garnished from my social security every month. The truth is they don’t care about what your situation is…they just want the money and they don’t care if they prevent you from earning a decent living to get it. Since I cannot work real estate and I have been unable to find any other employment, social security is all I have. Even though they are taking my money to pay on the loans, they still will not take off the DEFAULT from my record/credit report so I cannot get any job that requires any kind of certificate or license…and any kind of job is difficult to get when you are older…so I’m left with no options to improve my situation and I struggle to keep food on the table and to be able to pay for medical care. We had to drop our life insurance policies and have used all our savings. Real estate is one of the few professions where age doesn’t hinder employment and I’ve invested time and money into it, but now I can’t work it.

    One writer is wrong….you can’t get these loans cancelled no matter how long they’ve been in existence. I’ve deferred these loans and had forebearances for 25 years and have never made a payment due to severe medical and economic hardship. One day they refused to defer and started demanding a payment that I could not possibly afford and finally garnished my social security and took my real estate license. My daughter is a teacher, has ulcerative colitis, and is unable to help with these loans.

    If someone has any answers to this situation, please respond.

  4. In our country we access to free beginning public education and private education for the youth…. I think our education system should adapt the times and be more accessible to all people and reduce the monetary funding and exchange for schooling and trade skills.it is too much to ask that someone should owe more to the government or school than buying their first home for the family’s shelter. Also the educational costs should be directly relative to the actual job and pay a person and not profit to pass or fail persons or simply take their money in fees and interest to make a few very rich and the rest struggling and hungry or needy to welfare or worse. The idea that we used to work hard and pull ourselves out of debt and be responsible for our bills was a resourceful and good way to be, but now we just do not even make it past basic temporary job interviews and difficult labor jobs and min wage earnings. The American people should petition or send a bill to the President on behalf of the future and present students and families to help them and wipe this overpayment out and level the field for affordable, good, rewarding education for the children to come.

  5. Pati:

    Unfortunately there is no final arbitrator, no final judge, no divine. There is no one watching. If there were some one watching, the best you could say is that he watches and does nothing. There is no way Jane should be paying on those loans after 21 years. There is a limit as to the percentage of your salary that loan holders may garnish. That amount would not be $900/month for a teachers salary – much less. No one pays after 21 years. Loan payments are forgiven and the debt can be expunged after 15 years. Have Jane look into it, or revise her sad story to a more believable one.

  6. I thought most student loans had a provision that forgave a teachers loan after they had taught for so many years. Don’t know if she had this type of loan,but would certainly check.

  7. My wife and I, both in our sixties, owe over 100,00 in combined loans as a resutl of going back to school to try to improve ourselves. We suffered through two years of serious medical issues and with our incomes, mine from non-profit and her being laid off from her position and having to work from home for lower wages with no insurance. Now I am in repayment with 66,000 in loans at 250 a month, which doesn’t cover the interest and my wifes wages are garnished 45,000 at 15% of gross which doesn’t cover interest. We will be paying till we die and still owe the governmentover 100,000. I filed a complaint with dept of ed that I was mislead about the job opportunities associated with my degree, to no avail. Never believe the words, “We’re from the government and we are here to help,”

  8. I have two children with a total of $180.000.00 in student graduste level loans. My wife and I where fortunate enought to be able to pay for their undergraduate cost so they graduated form undergraduate school with no student loans. They go to graduate school on there own and now owe between the two of them $180,000 My grip is not the money they owe because they are very well educated and will be able to support themselves in the future. The problem is that these are fasa loans that carry a 7% a year interest rate that has been compounded over four year period and you can get a home loan for 4% why can’t the governmnet at least give these kids a break on the interest rate. My kids will not be able to buy a house or start a family till they are in their 40s so now the whole economy suffers because they can’t efford to invest in it. These people are our future and these interest rates should be at 3% fixed or the government who works for us will be crippleing the future economy that is upon us as I write this.,

  9. Jane is not alone. And how hideous that a government that should be helping its students achieve degrees with fair allotments and pay-back schedules is instead colluding with for-profit lenders to inordinately drain any borrower’s financial resources. Simply shameful.

  10. Drowning in Debt

    Please allow me to unveil a very sad situation. A friend whom I will call Jane is in her early fifties. As a young woman Jane had a dream of becoming a teacher. In 1987 she embarked on a teaching degree at a public university. With no outside funding she relied on Federal Student loans to pay for books and tuition. Graduating in 1991 with an elementary Teaching degree she got her first teaching job in a rural school district. She began paying off those loans.

    Three years later she became a mother. Her son was born with arthritis. She managed as a young teacher and mother. A few years later her daughter was born with a heart defect. The father signed the kids off and left their lives offering no help whatsoever. Jane struggled to manage work and two sick children and stretched finances with expensive medical needs for many years. Then the discovery of an aggressive cancer in her own body was the straw that broke the camels back. Although Jane has school district medical insurance, out of pocket premiums for her children is near six hundred dollars a month. In addition her wages are being garnished almost nine hundred dollars a month.

    She has now been teaching for 21 years. Jane, like any mom, has given her life for her family only to now face destitution from a student loan collection policy that will strip her of any kind of retirement. Currently she owns her car. She rents a house and has no savings.

    Jane’s student loan was sold. At this time the new loan owner failed to provide contact information except to begin garnishments of her pay. Kids, medical issues, and the time commitment required to be a good teacher as well as being stonewalled by a creditor have resulted in the garnishments continuing. She originally borrowed around 30,000 dollars. She has paid that back and more. The balance is now 50,000 dollars and growing exponentially. Her nearly 900 dollar a month payments go to creditor fees and interest. They will not give her information, as required by the new law, about getting the loan out of garnishment because it is so lucrative for them to maintain status quo.

    Jane is trapped. It has proven impossible to get through to NSLDS to even find out who has the loan. Meanwhile, Jane has been parenting, teaching and trying to find this information for over a year. She is a good teacher. She inspires learning makes huge strides from fall to spring. Her style of self sacrifice for her students has left her personal well being in shambles. Jane is responsible and is embarrassed to be in this situation. If you could PLEASE tell me what we can do.

    All the details surrounding Jane’s circumstances are true to the best of my knowledge. Jane is crippled at this point and feels utterly helpless.

    Bill Bieg

    • For those people that are so greedy and want more money, they will pay for it. They do not have the compassion, understanding, and mercy for people like your friend, it is not right with the Lord. God is watching. I know there are organizations that offer different resources such as Medicaid, Food Stamps, and more to help single working moms with one or more children like me. Faith, prayer, trust, and asking for help are a good reason to keep going because she is not alone.

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