Before you can determine how much you owe in student loans, it’s important to know whether you borrowed federal student loans, private student loans, or both. Federal loans are provided by Federal Student Aid, an agency within the U.S. Department of Education (DoE).
Private loans, however, are issued by private lenders, such as banks or credit unions. Either way, you’ll pay your loan back with the help of a student loan servicer, an intermediary that handles billing and other services on behalf of your lender. We recommend keeping your contact information updated with your lender so it can get in touch if needed.
If you borrowed both federal and private student loans, you’ll likely have to pay multiple monthly bills to different loan servicers. You’ll check different places to find out how much you owe. Here’s how to know your student loan balances, whether you owe federal loans, private loans, or both.
In this guide:
- How can I find how much I owe in federal student loans?
- How can I find how much I owe in private student loans?
- How can I find the balance on each of my student loans if I’m unsure?
- How can I be sure I’ve found the balances on all my student loans?
- Why do I owe more on my student loans than I borrowed?
How can I find how much I owe in federal student loans?
If you borrowed federal student loans to pay for school, you can check your balances on the Federal Student Aid website.
Step 1: Log in to your Federal Student Aid (FSA) account with your FSA ID and password. If you forgot your FSA ID or need to create a new one, you can request to do so on the website.
Step 2: Once you log in, you’ll see the names of your federal student loans, along with their balance, interest rate, and payment status. Your FSA dashboard will also reveal your student loan servicer, the company that manages student loan repayment.
This can be a good time to log this information on a piece of paper or spreadsheet to make a plan to repay your debts. Choose a method that’s easy to keep track of so you don’t risk losing your records.
Step 3: When it comes time to pay back your loans, you’ll create an account on your servicer’s website. If you set up automatic payments, you can score a reduction of 0.25% on your interest rate. You can also make one-time payments or, if your servicer allows it, pay via mail or over the phone.
How can I find how much I owe in private student loans?
If you borrowed private student loans, you won’t see those loans in your Federal Student Aid dashboard. No centralized website exists to check your private student loan balances.
Instead, you’ll need to log into your account on your private loan servicer’s website to view your balance. You may need to log into multiple accounts on different loan servicers’ websites if you borrowed more than one private student loan. Keep reading to determine how to find your private student loan servicer.
How can I find the balance on each of my student loans if I’m unsure how many loans I have?
If you borrowed multiple student loans, it may take time to track down all your balances. As we mentioned, the FSA website shows all your federal student loan balances in one dashboard.
But since there’s no central website for managing private student loans, here are three ways to find out who’s servicing your private student loans:
- Check your credit report. Your credit report will give you an overview of your accounts, revealing how many private student loans you took out and who’s servicing your loans. You can order a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from the three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—at AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Speak with your school’s financial aid office. If you’re not sure whom you borrowed from, contact your school’s financial aid office to see if it can point you in the right direction.
- Contact your lenders. If you remember which bank, credit union, or alternative lender you first borrowed from, reach out to the institution to find out who’s servicing your student loan.
Once you track down your loan servicer, call its customer service team for information on your student loan, and create an online account to check your balance and manage your payments.
Student loan servicers can change from time to time, so keep an eye on your accounts. Make sure your current servicer has your most up-to-date contact information so you don’t miss important notifications.
How can I be sure I’ve found the balances on all my student loans?
With multiple loans and shuffling servicers, you might be worried about losing track of a student loan. If you review your credit reports and contact your school’s financial aid office, you can feel confident you’ve found all your student loan balances.
As you do your research, write down all the details of your loans in one place. Keep a spreadsheet of each loan, including your original lender, loan servicer, original balance, monthly payment, and interest rate.
If you have sufficient funds in your bank account, set up automatic monthly payments on your loans. Consider checking your credit report and logging into your online accounts monthly to make sure you haven’t missed a loan payment.
If you see a late payment posted to your credit report, track down the issue and resolve it as soon as possible so your loans don’t fall into delinquency or default.
Why do I owe more on my student loans than I borrowed?
When you check your student loan balances, you may see you owe more than you first borrowed due to interest charges. Most student loans accrue interest from the date of disbursement. Federal Direct Subsidized Loans for undergraduates are the only exception. The government covers interest during the grace period and other periods of deferment.
Other types of federal student loans start accruing interest at a fixed rate right away. Private student loans accrue interest at a fixed or variable rate, depending on which type of rate you chose when you borrowed.
Once your grace period ends, interest may capitalize, or be added onto your principal balance. Once you start paying back your loans, interest will accrue on this new, higher balance.
Let’s say, for example, you borrowed $30,000 in student loans at a 5% interest rate. Over four years, your loans would accrue $3,162 in interest. If that interest was capitalized, your new balance would be $33,162.
How can I stop my loan balance from growing while I’m in school?
To prevent your balance from ballooning, consider making small or interest-only payments while you’re in school. In-school payments aren’t required, but they could prevent your balance from growing while you pursue your degree.
View our guide to student loan repayment for more.