Should you use StudentLoans.gov?
When the Internal Revenue Service shut down its Data Retrieval Tool federal student loan borrowers were left frustrated and confused. More than two months later, this feature was finally back up and running — this time at StudentLoans.gov. Here’s how you can use this resource to better manage your federal student loans
Getting started: Creating your Federal Student Aid ID (FSA)
You’ll need an FSA ID (formerly the Federal Student Aid Pin) to access the full site. If you don’t have an ID, you can create one in less than five minutes.
However, get this done ahead of time, as you won’t get far on the site without it. The login won’t function until the Social Security Administration (SSA) OKs your personal information. (They notified me via email within about 24 hours that I was good to go.)
The FSA ID allows to users do three things on StudentLoans.gov:
- Sign Federal Student Aid documents electronically
- Access personal records
- Accept legal notices
Once the SSA knows you’re a legit user, you will have access to your own homepage. Here, you can receive online messages, manage personal documents (such as a loan consolidation application), and click to carry out popular tasks.
4 things to do on StudentLoans.gov
Here are the different tasks you can carry out on StudentLoans.gov — and how to do them.
1. Consolidate Your Student Loan Debt
If you’ve decided to consolidate your federal loans into one Direct Consolidation Loan, StudentLoans.gov is the place to get it done. It only takes 30 minutes to fill in the application. Of course, this is only true if you already have a bunch of information at your side.
You will need your FSA ID, personal information, and the following details of your loans (even those you don’t plan to consolidate):
- Loan type
- Full name and mailing address of the loan holder or the servicer
- Account number (found on your statement)
- Estimated amount needed to pay off the loan
As you add your existing loans to the consolidation tool, it will auto-populate your new combined loan balance and interest rate. The rate is a weighted average of your previous loans, plus a minor round-up.
You could also indicate that you’d like your consolidation delayed until your grace period expires. This is a nice option for recent grads who are planning ahead. You can delay consolidation between one and nine months.
After completing the application, you’ll select your loan servicer. For borrowers with a particular distaste for an existing servicer, being able to choose your own is a plus.
If you don’t want to complete the application digitally, there are instructions to do so on paper. This will require downloading, printing, and mail your documents to your servicer.
2. Choose an IDR plan That You Can Afford
You might be skeptical of a government website’s ability to provide an interactive tool that actually works. Enter StudentLoans.gov’s Repayment Estimator. It allows users to add all their loans and individual characteristics, such as annual income.
The estimator then spits out your monthly and total payouts for the repayment plans that you are eligible for. (If you used StudentLoans.gov to consolidate, you would be eligible for all seven plans.) The tool also shows how much of the loans’ balance could be wiped away by Public Service Loan Forgiveness for each repayment plan.
The site’s tool is especially useful because it might lead users to switch to an income-driven repayment plan. StudentLoans.gov is also where you would complete the income-driven repayment application.
For borrowers new to Income Driven Requests
You can apply for one of the federal government’s four IDR plans and limit their monthly payment to a percentage of their income. The site’s Repayment Estimator helps borrowers decide which plan is right for them:
- Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment (REPAYE)
- Pay As You Earn Repayment (PAYE)
- Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
- Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)
The application takes 10 minutes to complete; the Data Retrieval Tool’s (DRT) return is responsible for that speed.
The DRT pulls your tax information into your application — that’s important because your annual salary plays a role in choosing one of these repayment plans. If your income has changed since the last tax return, you will be directed to a share newer a pay stub or employer letter with your loan servicer.
For borrowers already using Income Driven Requests
This section of StudentLoans.gov allows returning applicants to:
- Provide updated income and family-size information to recertify an IDR plan
- Request to reduce your monthly payment because of a change in income or family size
- Switch from one IDR plan to another
Recertification is performed annually while requesting a lower payment or switching IDR plans can occur at any time. Each task requires that your information is current in the National Student Loan Data System. If it’s not, you’ll land on a web page instructing you to update it.
3. Complete Required Tests
The remainder of the site is meant for undergraduate students, graduate and professional students, and their parents.
Students can check off mandatory training like entrance and exit counseling. They’re meant for brand-new borrowers or those who are just leaving school. There are also optional resources, such as Finance Awareness Counseling, that could be helpful for new borrowers.
StudentLoans.gov is also the one-stop shop for in-school and parent borrowers to complete a master promissory note (MPN). The MPN, which is necessary for all Direct Loans, is a pledge that borrowers will repay their loans and the accruing interest over time.
The MPN application permits you to receive federal loans for up to 10 years and takes less than 30 minutes to fill out.
4. Get The Help You Need
If you can’t get a task completed or a question answered on StudentLoans.gov, the site is good about telling you where to do so. It suggests, for example, to contact your school’s financial aid office for questions about a loan’s disbursement date and your loan servicer for questions about your balance.
If you’re not sure how to find a particular form — or don’t know which form you need — head to the site’s Forms Center. Here you can find downloadable application forms for anything related to repayment, deferment, forbearance, and discharge and forgiveness.
You can also be sent to the right document by taking a quick quiz about your situation. Someone who can’t afford a current monthly payment and needs to press the pause button, for example, would be directed to a list of deferment and forbearance options.
StudentLoans.gov contact information
The website provides more than a StudentLoans.gov contact phone number (1-800-557-7394). It also has a built-in email system and live chat.
But if you prefer hearing the voice of another human, its telephone support is available Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. EST.
StudentLoans.gov is a valuable resource
Like most students, you started the process of financing your education at FAFSA.gov and StudentAid.gov. But once you leave school, StudentLoans.gov is where you can manage your federal student aid.
But StudentLoans.gov is more than a valuable resource to manage your loans. It’s a platform that helps you take control of your debt before it starts taking control of you.
So log on, use the repayment estimator, and come up with your own an action-plan. Meanwhile, Student Loan Guidance Group will still be here to help you if needed.
Whether you’re Struggling to Pay Off Your Federal Student Loan Debt, Wanting Help Out of Default to Avoid Wage or Tax Garnishment, Looking to Apply for Federal Student Loan Forgiveness, Needing to Reduce Your Monthly Student Loan Payments or just simply want to Optimize your Cash Flow Situation, We Can Help!
It’s a 100% RISK-FREE Consultation with Proven Results!