Student Loans 101

Ambiguous Girl_Blue#1010231When 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 have a grace period. The grace period is a set period of time after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment before you must begin repaying your loan. 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?

The U.S. Department of Education uses several loan servicers to handle the billing and other services on federal student loans. Your loan servicer will work with you to choose a repayment plan and will assist you with other tasks related to your federal student loans. It is important to maintain contact with your loan servicer and keep your servicer informed of any changes to your address, email, or phone number.

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, then you must contact your loan servicer.

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.

Still have questions?

On the last Wednesday of each month at 5 p.m. Eastern time (ET), Federal Student Aid (@FAFSA) hosts #AskFAFSA Office Hours. This live Q&A session on Twitter gives you the opportunity to get your questions answered by the experts. This month, we’ll be focusing on student loan repayment. You can submit your questions and join the conversation using the hashtag #AskFAFSA. On Wednesday, May 29, at 5 p.m. ET, tune in during the live event for answers from our experts.

Keep in mind that your loan servicer is always the best place to go for assistance specific to your situation. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact your loan servicer.

Nicole Callahan is a new media analyst at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.


  1. It’s obvious that getting involved with any kind of school loans is just as bad as messing with loan sharks in the worst part of town, don’t do it!!!

  2. The US Department of Education uses a loan servicer called Education Credit Management Corporation or ECMC. Should you ever have the misfortune of having to deal with ECMC or have a choice on whether you can use ECMC or a different loan service, choose to use anyone but ECMC. ECMC was the most difficult corporation that I have ever encountered. ECMC intentionally punishes students that had a loan go into default even after you completely pay off the entire balance. They will not work with you to clear your credit and openly admit that should you go into default for any reason they will punish you as much as they can. They do not care for the students. They will not work with the students and they are the worst foundation that I ever had the misfortune of dealing with.

    • I totally agree. Instead of helping me get out of debt they are slowing placing me into debt with the extremely high payments and if I don’t pay they will garnish my wages at 15%, I am a single parent of 2 kids w/o any assistance and that still didn’t make a difference.

  3. I went back to school to be a teacher. I worked one year and am unable to find a position because of budget cuts. I defaulted on my loan due to circumstances and entered into loan forgiveness program. I made arrangements in March, made a first payment on April 15th, but IRS still took my refund. Response from lender: I should have waited until after the 15th to send my taxes! Can I still get my return back?????? Who do I contact?

  4. Unemployed for over 18 months, need additional education/training to get license for employment. Any suggestions? Also, believe school loan history be complicating employment opportunities, can that be true?

  5. Student Loans SHOULD NOT accrue interest during the grace period. In fact, they shouldn’t accrue interest AT ALL… What do you think that does to people in this economy? Whose side are you on here?? Oh yeah, the side that screws people over – the GOVERNMENT. WE THE PEOPLE are GREATER than the GOVERNMENT. WE WILL UPRISE.

  6. What about disabled teachers continuing to keep license to teach current and continuing grad school. What do I do with a social security check?

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