Borrower Grace Periods
After you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment, you have a period of time before you have to begin repayment. This “grace period” will be
- Six months for a Federal Stafford Loan (Direct Loan Program SM or Federal Family Education Loan (FFELSM) Program).
Make Your Payments on Time
Your loan servicer will provide information about repayment and will notify you of the date loan repayment begins. It is very important that you make your full loan payment on time either monthly (which is usually when you’ll pay) or according to your repayment schedule. If you don’t, you could end up in default, which has serious consequences. Student loans are real loans—just as real as car loans or mortgages. You have to pay back your student loans.
Get Your Loan Information
The U.S. Department of Education’s National Student Loan Data System SM (NSLDSSM) provides information on your federal loans including loan types, disbursed amounts, outstanding principal and interest, and the total amount of all your loans. Access NSLDS online.
If you’re not sure who your loan servicer is, you can look it up or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243; TTY 1-800-730-8913). To see a list of Federal Student Aid servicers for the Direct Loan Program and for FFEL Program Loans purchased by the U.S. Department of Education, go to the Loan Servicer page.
You have a choice of several repayment plans that are designed to meet the different needs of individual borrowers. The amount you pay and the length of time to repay your loans will vary depending on the repayment plan you choose. Go to Repayment Plans and Calculators for more information about the various repayment plans and to calculate your estimated repayment amount under each of the different plans.
If you have specific questions about repaying FFEL, Direct, or Perkins Loans, contact your loan servicer. In the case of Perkins Loans, your servicer will be the school that made the loan. If you don’t know who your loan servicer is, you can look it up online.
If you default, it means you failed to make payments on your student loan according to the terms of your promissory note, the binding legal document you signed at the time you took out your loan. In other words, you failed to make your loan payments as scheduled. Your school, the financial institution that made or owns your loan, your loan guarantor, and the federal government all can take action to recover the money you owe. Here are some consequences of default:
- National credit bureaus can be notified of your default, which will harm your credit rating, making it hard to buy a car or a house.
- You will be ineligible for additional federal student aid if you decide to return to school.
- Loan payments can be deducted from your paycheck.
- State and federal income tax refunds can be withheld and applied toward the amount you owe.
- You will have to pay late fees and collection costs on top of what you already owe
- You can be sued.
For more information and to learn what actions to take if you default on your loans, visit the Collections website for the Department of Education.