Learn all about student loans including where to get them, how to get them, and strategies to avoid massive loan debt by the time you graduate.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What are the four types of federal student loans?

    The U.S. Department of Education currently offers direct subsidized loans, direct unsubsidized loans, direct PLUS loans, and direct consolidation loans. Subsidized loans are solely for eligible undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need to help cover the costs of a higher education, while unsubsidized loans are available for eligible undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, though eligibility isn’t based on financial need. PLUS loans are made to graduate or professional students as well as parents of dependent undergraduate students for education expenses not covered by other financial aid. A consolidation loan allows you to combine all of your eligible federal student loans into one loan with a sole loan servicer.

  • Should you pay off your student loans early?

    It depends on your financial circumstances. Since interest may accumulate on your student loans while you’re in school (depending on the type of loan), it may make sense to begin making payments toward your debt before the actual due date kicks in. There are no penalties for making prepayments on either federal or private student loans, so if you are able it can save you some money to start early.

  • What happens if you don’t pay off your student loan?

    The first day following a missed student loan payment, your student loan becomes past due (i.e., delinquent) until you either repay the past due amount or make other arrangements with your creditor. Remaining delinquent for 90 days or more will result in your loan servicer reporting the delinquency to the three major national credit bureaus. Following a certain period of delinquency, which varies based on the type of loan, there is also a risk of the loan going into default.

  • Can student loans repayments come out of your retirement funds?

    Per the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), most employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as a 401(k), are protected from seizure by creditors in nearly all cases. However, according to the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, up to 15% of your Social Security payments can be garnished to repay your federal student loan(s) should you default. Fortunately, the amount garnished cannot reduce your monthly benefit payment below $750.

Key Terms

Explore Student Loans

Students Looking at Tablet
Student Loan Debt by Gender
Students in a Classroom Auditorium
Student Loan Debt by Race
person in blue jean shirt on computer at wooden table
Student Loan Advice From a Personal and Family Finance Specialist
Family with graduate
Happy Graduation! You Have 6 Months to Start Paying Back Your Loans
Man at computer looking thoughtful
Student Debt Cuts Into Retirement Savings for All Age Groups
Black college graduate, with diploma, hugging friend
Student Loans and the Racial Wealth Gap
Student stressed about COVID
How to Get COVID-19 Student Loan Relief
College student concentrates on studies while using a laptop
How Does Financial Aid Work?
Male-College-Student.jpg
Managing Your Student Loans During College
Mother and son reading letter
Understanding Scholarships: Need and Merit
Man using laptop at night
How to File for Student Loan Bankruptcy
Couple reviewing repayment plan with financial planner
Know Your Student Loan Repayment Options to Choose the Right Plan
Teacher with students
Special Ways Teachers Can Qualify for Student Loan Forgiveness
Woman calculates something on a paper
Student Loan Limits—How Much Can You Get?
Young woman at computer
Student Loan Forbearance: Pros and Cons
Woman reviewing finances for student loan deferment
What Is Student Loan Deferment?
Woman looks over information on computer
Student Loan Debt: 2021 Statistics and Outlook
Calculating interest rates
How to Calculate Student Loan Interest
Student Loan Asset-Backed Securities: Safe or Subprime?
Woman working on papers
Education Loan
Woman calculating something
Is It Legal to Invest My Student Loan Money?
Young woman and her mother talk with a female bank employee about a student loan.
The 6 Worst Student Loan Mistakes You Can Make
Person online with credit card
The Most Common Student Loan Scams and How to Avoid Them
Man goes over loan options with two women
Stafford Loan
Son helping father using laptop.
Heading Into Retirement With Student Loans
Woman works on paper
Direct Consolidation Loan Definition
Couple looks over papers
Which Companies Had the Most Student Loan Complaints in 2021?
Federal Direct Loan Program
Student working on his laptop
Out-of-Control Student Loans? Here's Help
Debt Forgiveness: Escape Your Student Loans
Father counting money with son
Understanding 529 Plans and Student Loans
Man looks over student loan documents
Subsidized vs. Unsubsidized Student Loans: Which Is Best?
Woman works on papers
How to Consolidate Student Loans
Disadvantages of Federal Direct Loans
Woman working on papers
Student Loan Interest Deduction Definition
Woman working on something in bed
What Is a Deferment Period?
Man working on many papers
Student Loan Creditors Can Garnish Your Money
Student looking across bridge
Is Student Loan Debt the Next Financial Crisis?
Woman counting money
5 Sources of Free Cash for Student Loans
Two people working on papers together
Are Student Loans Amortized?
Woman looking at laptop
Try These Tips to Pay Off Your Student Loans Faster
FAFSA
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Student talking to lender
What Is a PLUS Loan?
Woman looking at letters
FAFSA Award Letter
Man moving into apartment
Can You Pay Rent With a Student Loan?
10 Ways Student Debt Can Derail Your Life
Repayment Options for Students with Perkins Loans
Father and son unloading boxes in front of college
Parents: Beware of Taking Out a Direct PLUS Loan
10 Tips to Topple Student Loan Debt
FedLoan Servicing
FedLoan Servicing Review
PenFed Credit Union
PenFed Credit Union Student Loan Refinancing Review
Navient
Navient Student Loan Servicer Review
Splash Financial Student Loan Refinancing Review
Splash Financial Student Loan Refinancing Review
Nelnet Student Loan Servicing Review
Nelnet Student Loan Servicing Review
MEFA Student Loans Review
MEFA Student Loans Review
Navy Federal Credit Union Student Loans Review
Navy Federal Credit Union Student Loans Review
Education Loan Finance (ELFI) Student Loans Review
Education Loan Finance (ELFI) Student Loans Review
Great Lakes
Great Lakes Educational Loan Services Review
American Education Services
American Education Services Review
Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo Student Loan Review

Student Loans

Loan Basics

Page Sources