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Student Loans: How Much Do I Owe?

How Much Do I Owe in Student Loans?
Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman
Sulaiman Abdur-RahmanUpdated July 18, 2023
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
Borrowing money to attend college can be expensive. Federal student loan borrowers may access their Federal Student Aid online dashboard to check how much they owe in outstanding federal student loans.Private student loan borrowers may contact their individual loan servicers to check the balance of their private student loans. Your credit report may also contain information regarding the balance of any active student loans you took out.Below we highlight multiple ways you may verify how much you owe in student loan debt repayments.

How Much Do You Owe in Student Loans?

Student loan borrowers are generally expected to repay their education loan balances over time. The amount you owe in student loans may include principal and interest charges. Your interest rate can impact how much you owe.The average student loan debt is tens of thousands of dollars per borrower as of May 2023. Federal student loan debt averages more than $37,000 per borrower, and private student loan debt averages $54,921 per borrower, according to the Education Data Initiative.How much you owe in student loan debt is determined by the amount of money you borrow and any interest charges that may apply.

How Do I Find Out How Much I Owe on Student Loans?

Parents and students can borrow federal education loans or private student loans. Below we highlight some of the ways you may find out how much you owe on student loans:

Finding How Much You Owe in Federal Student Loans

Finding out how much you owe in federal student loans can be done in one of the following ways:
  • Contacting your federal loan servicer and asking how much you owe
  • Accessing your Federal Student Aid online dashboard with your FSA ID
  • Contacting your school’s financial aid office and asking whether the school has loan balance information on what you owe
The difference between private vs. federal student loans is that federal student loans are provided exclusively by the U.S. Department of Education, whereas banks, credit unions, online lenders, and select state-based or state-affiliated organizations may offer private student loans.

Calculating How Much You Owe in Private Student Loans

You can contact your private student loan servicers to check the balance of your private student loans. Private lenders may be available to answer your questions via email, telephone, fax, or postal mail.Borrowers with more than one private lender would have to contact each private lender individually to check the loan balance for each account. Every lender is different, but private lenders generally allow you to check your account balance online. You may check the balance for each of your private student loans to calculate how much you owe in total.Your free annual credit report can be another way to check how much you owe in student loans that are private.The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to obtain your free annual credit report every 12 months upon request.

Paying Off Student Debt

Borrowers can make extra payments to minimize interest charges and pay off student loans early. Some borrowers, however, may never finish repaying a student loan during their lifetime.You may ask, how long does it take to pay off student loans? It may take some borrowers between 10 to 30 years to pay off federal student loans and five to 25 years to pay off private student loans.What happens to student loans when you die is the debt might be discharged, although some private lenders may demand repayment from your estate.The federal government in March 2020 suspended student loan payments in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. After a number of extensions, the federal student loan payment pause is scheduled to end Aug. 30, 2023. As a result, interest accrual on federal student loans will resume on Sept. 1, and payments will be due starting in October.

Loan Consolidation

Borrowers may consolidate their federal student loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan. Consolidation can merge all of your federal student loan liabilities into a single federal loan. It can also give you up to 30 years to repay your federal student debt, but choosing a longer repayment term may increase your total interest costs.Although your interest costs may increase, choosing a longer repayment period may lower your monthly payment amount. Consolidation can also simplify your federal student loan repayment obligations if you merge all of your federal loans into a single loan product.

Loan Forgiveness

Some federal student loan borrowers may be eligible for U.S. Department of Education student loan forgiveness programs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).Public employees with federal student loan obligations may have access to the PSLF program. PSLF can forgive the remaining balance on your federal student loans after you have made 120 qualifying monthly repayments as a public employee.Municipal, county, state, and federal government employees may qualify for PSLF, including members of the U.S. armed forces seeking military student loan forgiveness. Federal student loan borrowers who work for nonprofits may also qualify for PSLF. Meanwhile, educators with federal student loans in some cases may be eligible for up to $17,500 in federal student loan forgiveness under the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program.Private student loan borrowers may have fewer options for student loan forgiveness than federal student loan borrowers. Private student loans are not eligible for PSLF or Teacher Loan Forgiveness, but they may be eligible for some state-based loan repayment programs.

Defaulting on Student Loans

Here’s what may happen if you fail to pay and default on a student loan:
  • The reported default may remain in your credit report for up to seven years
  • Your credit scores may plunge
  • Your wages may be garnished
Borrowers of federal student loans may default on their obligations if they have not made a required payment in more than 270 days.Private lenders may find you in default of your private student loans if you fail to make a monthly payment when due.Student loan borrowers may have opportunities to cure their defaults by contacting their loan servicers and making immediate repayments.

Refinancing Your Student Loans

Refinancing federal student loans can allow borrowers to replace their existing federal loans with the terms and conditions of a private loan agreement. Private lenders can set their own underwriting standards for refinancing, but some may require applicants to have steady income and good credit. For subprime borrowers, it might be difficult to refinance student loans with bad credit.How student loan refinancing works is that borrowers submit an application with a private lender requesting a new loan agreement for refinancing student loan debt.Reviewing the pros and cons of refinancing student loans can help you decide whether refinancing is right for you. One of the advantages of refinancing student loans is it may provide you with a lower monthly payment, but you may also pay more total interest if you refinance for a longer term.Here are some other points to consider:
  • Refinancing federal student loans will remove your access to federal income-driven repayment plans, Teacher Loan Forgiveness, and PSLF 
  • Borrowers may refinance federal student loans and private student loans
  • There’s no guarantee that student loan refinancing will lower your interest rate or interest costs 

Refinance Your Student Loans With Lantern

If you’re burdened with education loan debt and would like to refinance student loans, Lantern by SoFi can help. Refinancing may lower your monthly payment, but you may also pay more total interest if you refinance for a longer repayment term.Lantern can help you find and compare your student loan refinance options.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Can you figure out how much you owe in student loans?
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About the Author

Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman

Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman

Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman writes about personal loans, auto loans, student loans, and other personal finance topics for Lantern. He’s the recipient of more than 10 journalism awards and served as a New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists board member. An alumnus of the Philadelphia-based Temple University, Abdur-Rahman is a strong advocate of the First Amendment and freedom of speech.
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