I don’t know if my student loan is federal or private. How can I tell?


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The Credible Money Coach helps reader understand how to determine if his student loan is federal or private. (Credible)

Dear Credible Money Coach,

How can I tell if my student loan is federal or private? — Bryan

Hello Bryan, and thank you for your question. 

Student loans can be complicated, and determining whether you have a federal or private loan takes a little investigation. Fortunately, it’s not difficult, and plenty of resources are available to help.

How to know if you have a federal student loan

Look at your student loan’s most recent billing statement for your lender’s name. If you see one of the following federal programs, you have a federal loan.

  • William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program (Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and Direct Consolidation Loans)
  • Federal Perkins Loan Program (commonly known as Perkins Loans)
  • Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program (FFEL Loans)

If you don’t have a billing statement or are still unsure, the following indicate you have a federal loan:

  • Your payments are in forbearance. Due to the pandemic, many federal loans don’t have to be repaid until after Aug. 31, 2022.
  • Your current interest rate is 0%. Federal loan relief includes paying zero interest through Aug. 31, 2022.
  • Your monthly payment changed. An income-driven repayment (IDR) plan is a benefit available to most federal student loan borrowers.

If you have a username and password for the U.S. Department of Education online system, known as an FSA ID, you can access your loan details, including your loan amount, interest rate, status, and outstanding balance.

How to know if you have a private student loan

You likely have a private loan if you don’t see a federal program name on your loan’s billing statement. You can visit the lender’s website or call them for more information.

The following also indicate that you have a private student loan:

  • Your interest rate varies from federal rates. Until July 1, 2022, interest rates on federal loans may range from 3.73% to 6.28%. Private rates may be higher or lower, depending on your credit and type of loan.
  • You receive monthly bills. While many federal loans are in forbearance, that doesn’t apply to private student loans.
  • You have a student loan cosigner. Most federal loans don’t require a cosigner or credit check. However, private loans require borrowers or cosigners to have minimum credit standards for approval.

How to find your student loan lender

If you’re still unsure whether your student loan is private or federal, use these tips to find your lender:

  • Contact your school’s financial aid office and ask who originated your loan.
  • Call the loan servicers that manage loans for the Department of Education using information at StudentAid.gov.
  • Check your credit report for the name and contact information of your lender.

Ready to learn more? Check out these articles …

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About the author: Laura Adams is a personal finance and small business expert, award-winning author, and host of Money Girl, a top-rated weekly audio podcast and blog. She’s frequently quoted in the national media, and millions of readers and listeners benefit from her practical financial advice. Laura’s mission is to empower consumers to live richer lives through her speaking, spokesperson, and advocacy work. She received an MBA from the University of Florida and lives in Vero Beach, Florida. Follow her on LauraDAdams.com, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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