If you already have a semester or two of college under your belt, you might be asking yourself, “How much do I owe in student loans?” It’s hard to keep track of your student loan balance, especially since the pause on federal student loan payments has been in effect since March 2020. But with that pause expected to end in the summer of 2023, it’s important to know what you owe.
The amount might startle you. One year after leaving school, graduates have an average of $33,500 in student loan debt, according to the most recent numbers from EducationData.org.
The sooner you find out your student loan amounts, the sooner you could make a plan to pay them off. Here’s how to check your student loan balance.
How to Find Out How Much You Owe in Federal Student Loans
Federal student loans typically come in two types: unsubsidized loans and subsidized loans. If you’re a graduate student, you might also have a Graduate PLUS federal student loan. So then, how to check a student loan balance? Fortunately, information on all your federal student loans can be found in one spot. You can look up your balance on the Federal Student Aid (FSA) website.
To check your student loan balance, simply log into your account at studentaid.gov with your FSA ID and password. There, you’ll find your current student loan balance, the interest that has accrued on your account, payment status, and your loan servicer. If your loan servicer has changed, that information will be there as well.
How to Find Out How Much You Owe in Private Student Loans
There’s no one central website to check your balance for private student loans. One method to figure out how much you owe in private loans would be to contact each loan servicer individually.
If your loans have new servicers and you’re having trouble tracking them down, call your original lenders and ask who the new servicers are. Your school’s financial aid office should also have this information.
Another way to find your loan servicers is to check your credit report. You can get a free copy of your credit report from the three main credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and also from AnnualCreditReport.com.
Your report will list your student loans, the loan servicers, and how much you borrowed. From there you can call each server to find out how much you currently owe. 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 for each, 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. Take a deep breath. Keeping track of student loans can be a big undertaking, so don’t panic.
One way to help manage your student loan debt while you’re in college is to get a part-time job. You could look for opportunities to become a paid tutor, intern, or residence assistant. If working part-time during school isn’t possible, 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 explore scholarships. These help pay for your education and you don’t have to pay them back. All it takes is some dedicated time looking for the right match. You could check with your university and any organizations you’re involved with to see if you can help fund your tuition this way.
Paying Off Your Student Loans
Once you’ve learned how to check your student loan balance and then determined how much you owe, it’s time to develop a master plan to pay your loans off. This is important, especially since the median monthly student loan payment is $250, according to EducationDate.org, which is no small change.
These are some of the ways you could pay off what you owe.
Using a Government Repayment Plan
If you have federal student loans, you’ll 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 that.
It will be helpful to see all of your expenses and income together to determine how much extra cash you can put toward your loans. Drawing up a budget can help you determine how much extra money you can put toward your student loan balance.
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’re actually making 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 one.
Refinancing Your Student Loans
Alternatively, you may want to work on ways to reduce your student loan payments. In that case, you could explore student loan refinancing.
When you refinance with a private lender, you replace your old loans with a new private loan, ideally one with a lower interest rate and better terms. Using a student loan refinance calculator can help you figure out how much you might save by doing this.
Once you know the potential savings involved, consider this critical question: Should you refinance your student loans? If it could save you money, refinancing might be worth pursuing. However, it’s important to know that if you refinance federal student loans, they will no longer be eligible for federal deferment or forbearance, loan forgiveness programs, or income-driven repayment. If you’re certain you won’t need access to these programs, refinancing may make sense.
Still not sure? This student loan refinancing guide is full of useful information that could help you decide whether refinancing is the right choice.
SoFi Student Loan Refinancing
If you decide to move ahead, student loan refinancing with SoFi could help lower your monthly payments, shorten your student loan term, or save you money on interest. You can choose low fixed or variable rates, and there are no fees. Plus, you can prequalify and get your rate in just two minutes.
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SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.
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