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?
TIP: Your servicer may offer the option to have your payments automatically withdrawn from your bank account each month.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