After you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment, you become responsible for repaying your federal student loans. Remember, federal student loans are real loans, just like car loans or mortgages!
There is a repayment plan, and possibly a loan forgiveness program for you.
The repayment process can be confusing sometimes. If you take a few minutes to learn about your options, you will successfully repay your loans even if there are times when you can’t afford to make a payment. Here are some steps to help you prepare for your student loan repayment and any financial hardships you may experience during repayment. Review this information as early in your student career as possible, and review it often.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is Exit Counseling?The Direct Loan Exit Counseling provides you with information on how to manage your student loan repayment, including your rights and responsibilities as a borrower. The counseling tool also gives you a snapshot of how much you have borrowed and an estimate of your monthly payment amount for different payment plans. Using your FSA ID, you can log on to StudentLoans.gov and complete the Exit Counseling process.
- Who and what is my loan servicer?The U.S. Department of Education contracts with several companies to act as loan servicers. These companies process your payments and help you make any changes to your payment plans throughout the life of your loan. You can manage most communications with your loan servicer through their secure websites.
- Keep your contact information up to date with your servicer.
- Be sure to contact your servicer if you ever have trouble keeping up with your loan payments. Your servicer will help you find a solution so that your loan stays in good standing, even if you need to temporarily stop making payments.
- If you are having trouble making your full loan payments on time, it's a good idea to review information about your options before calling your servicer. This way, you will be an informed consumer of different repayment plans or forbearance options. If you are unable to do your research, don't worry; go ahead and contact your servicer for help.
- You can identify your servicer by visiting the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS).
- What kind of repayment options do I have?You get to choose the payment plan that is right for you. There are many plans to choose from and they each feature different monthly payment amounts, total repayment amount, and total time to repay. You can also change from one plan to another in order to make your payments affordable. Get more details about repayment plans and calculate your estimated repayment amount under each of the different plans.
- What if I can't afford to make, or need to stop making my payments?Don't worry! There are options for you. Depending on the details of your situation, you may be eligible for a deferment or forbearance; loan forgiveness, cancellation or discharge; or zero payments under a different payment plan. In some cases, you may want to use a Consolidation Loan to resolve your circumstances. Review your options carefully, then contact your servicer who will help you make any needed changes so that you can keep your loan in good standing during hard times.
- What is default?Loan default occurs when you don't make required loan payments for more than 270 days—that's about 9 months. If you ever receive a delinquency or default notice from your loan servicer, get in touch with them as soon as possible. And remember, if you can't afford a payment, go ahead and call your servicer. You can keep your credit clean even if you need to stop making student loan payments for a while, as long as you work with your servicer to enroll in the right option for you.
Graduate Student Cumulative Loan Debt
In 2016–17, the average cumulative loan debt for graduate degree recipients was:
- Arts and Humanities: $37,068
- Engineering and Computer Science: $20,897
- Interdisciplinary: –*
- Life Sciences: $36,944
- Physical Sciences: $6,122
- Professional Fields: $63,403
- Social Sciences: $43,009
- Engineering: $24,138
- Environmental Design/Landscape Architecture: $59,386
- JD Law: $142,346
- MA Teacher Ed: $28,315
- Masters Information Management: $52,158
- MBA Business: $91,078
- MPP Public Policy: $51,439
- MSW Social Welfare: $57,284
- OD Optometry: $122,813
- Public Health (MPH/DPH/DrEnv): $39,510
- Statistics: –*
*The number of students in this program who graduated in 2016–17 is too small to provide accurate estimates.