Student loans might be the one thing you wish you could ignore. But they may also be the one thing that keeps you enrolled. Well, besides getting good grades. You catch the drift. Wouldn’t you much rather be playing frisbee golf instead of messing with your student loans?
If you already have a semester or two under your belt, you might be asking yourself, “How much do I owe in student loans?” The answer might surprise you, considering graduates in the 2016-2017 school year walked away with an average of $28,500 in student loan debt for their bachelor’s degrees, according to the most recent stats posted by The College Board . So what can you do about it?
If you want to know how much you owe in student loans, the earlier you understand your student loans, the sooner you could make a plan to pay them off. Take a look below to figure out how much you owe.
How to Find Out How Much You Owe in Federal Student Loans
The first thing you might want to look into are your federal student loans. These typically come in two flavors: unsubsidized and subsidized. If you are a graduate student, you might also have a Graduate PLUS federal student loan. In any case, information on your federal student loans can be found in one spot.
For federal student loans, you can look up your balance in the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) for students. You could also contact your school’s financial aid office to find your student loan servicer.
Before you access the system, you will need the same username and password that you initially used to set up your Federal Student Aid account. If you haven’t accessed your account since May 10, 2015, you probably don’t have credentials to log on. That’s because the Federal Student Aid PIN (a four-digit number) was replaced by the FSA ID.
If you didn’t set up an FSA ID, no worries. You can set one up by linking it to your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is linked to all federal student loans you have previously accepted.
How to Find Out How Much You Owe in Private Student Loans
An easy way to figure out how much you owe in private loans would be to contact each lender individually. Alternatively, if you’re not sure who your lenders might be, you could also check your credit reports.
Anyone can access their credit reports for free using a free tool called Annual Credit Report . Federal law states that you have a right to access to your credit reports every 12 months, and it includes information from Equifax®️, Experian®️, and TransUnion®️.
Once you have a list of lenders, you could reach out to each one and check your balance. Keep in mind, private student loan providers set their own terms, including loan term length, interest rates, and repayment plans.
It might be a good idea to organize your private student loans and determine when the repayment phase kicks in, as it could be different from the federal student loan repayment plan.
Keeping Student Loan Debt Manageable
If this is your first time looking up how much you owe in student loans, you might be feeling major sticker shock. Deep breath. Keeping track of student loans can be a big undertaking, so don’t panic.
One way to help keep your student loan debt at bay while you’re in college is to pay cash for as much of your living expenses as possible. Maybe it’s not very glamorous to wear a visor at the local fast food joint, but picking up a part-time job while you’re in school could be a way to avoid more debt.
You could look for opportunities to become a paid tutor, intern, or residence assistant. If working part-time during school isn’t going to work, you could plan on getting a full-time job in the summer and live off the savings throughout the school year.
In addition to picking up paying jobs, you could also consider scooping up free money with scholarships. All it takes is some dedicated time looking for the right match. You could check with your university, college, and organizations you are a part of to see if you can fund your tuition the free way.
Paying Off Your Student Loans
After you have determined how much you owe in student loans, it might be time to develop a master plan to pay them off.
The average monthly student loan payment is $393, according to the latest information from the Federal Reserve . That’s enough for a plane ticket to visit somewhere really cool—every single month.
Use our Student Loan Payoff Calculator
to get an idea of when your loan
payoff date will be.
Using a Government Repayment Plan
If you have federal student loans, you will likely repay your loans using a government repayment plan. This includes income-driven repayment plans where the minimum payment is based upon factors like your income and family size, and the repayment term can be stretched out to 25 years in some cases.
One downside of these options is that they typically increase the total amount you pay back when compared to the standard 10-year repayment plan.
You could also look into Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), as long as you meet the requirements. To qualify, you must work for a government agency or certain types of nonprofit organizations.
Making an Extra Payment Each Month
If you want to pay off your student loans more quickly, there are a few ways to go about it. First, you could make extra payments. You want to make sure the bulk of your extra payment goes toward your principal, not the interest, so it might make sense to contact your servicers or lenders to let them know if you want to do just that.
You might want to see all of your expenses and income together to determine how much extra cash you can put toward your loans.
A budget could be a good way to see everything together. You can do this using a spreadsheet, pencil and paper, or a money-tracking app. There is no wrong option here, as long as it works with your brain.
DIY Student Loan Debt Payoff Ideas
You could organize your student loan debt by either the highest interest rate or by the lowest total outstanding balance. These methods are commonly referred to as the debt avalanche and debt snowball, respectively.
Paying off the debt with the highest interest rate could help save you money in the long-run, whereas paying off the smallest loan balance could give you a quick win.
Once you select a method, you might want to make sure you actually make a dent in the balance. One way to do that is to regularly check your balances and see what kind of progress you’ve made. If that method isn’t decreasing your student loan debt as quickly as you’d like, you could switch to a different method.
Refinancing Your Student Loans
Alternatively, you may want to work on ways to reduce your student loan payments if you can’t manage the monthly minimum payments. If that’s the case, you could choose to refinance your student loans when you graduate.
You might want to look for student loan refinancing options that don’t require application or origination fees. You could also check to see if there are any early payoff penalties. The idea is to help you manage your payments, and there’s no sense in paying extra fees to refinance your student loans.
SoFi Student Loan Refinancing
SoFi’s student loan refinancing plans could help lower monthly payments, shorten your student loan term, or save money on interest. This option could work for federal loans, private loans, or both.
If you choose to refinance your federal loans, be aware that this can affect your federal benefits and you would lose access to options such as income-driven repayment plans or loan forgiveness programs like PSLF. You might want to research all your options before you dive in.
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If you are looking to refinance federal student loans, please be aware that the White House has announced up to $20,000 of student loan forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for qualifying borrowers whose student loans are federally held. Additionally, the federal student loan payment pause and interest holiday has been extended to December 31, 2022. Please carefully consider these changes before refinancing federally held loans with SoFi, since in doing so you will no longer qualify for the federal loan payment suspension, interest waiver, or any other current or future benefits applicable to federal loans. If you qualify for federal student loan forgiveness and still wish to refinance, leave up to $10,000 and $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients unrefinanced to receive your federal benefit. CLICK HERE for more information.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.