“What type of student loan do I have” is the most common question we hear from borrowers. You must know what type of student loan you have in order to understand your options. You can use the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) to find out what federal loans you have. You first have to get a personal identification number (PIN). For more information about the use of PINs, visit NSLDS. You can download loan, grant, enrollment, and overpayment information from the NSLDS Student Access web site into a machine-readable, plain text file. The site displays information on loan and grant amounts, outstanding balances, loan statuses, and disbursements.
You can also call the Federal Student Aid Information Center, 1-800-4-FED-AID, TDD 1-800-730-8913. The Center’s counselors can help you figure out what types of loans you have. There is a Direct Loan service center specifically for Direct Loan borrowers at 1-800-848-0979 (1-800-557-7392 for Direct Consolidation Loans).
There is no central data base similar to NSLDS for private student loan information. You should contact your lenders or loan holders to get more information about private loans. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a private student loan ombudsman and an on-line student loan assistant tool. The Department of Education also has information about the differences between federal and private student loans.
Federal vs. Private Loans: How to Tell the Difference
It is often confusing to spot the differences between federal loans and private loans because the same lenders are often involved and schools sometimes put their names on private loans.
1. If you are trying to figure out what type of loan you have after you have already signed for the loan, visit the National Student Loan Data System, described above. You know you have a federal loan if it is listed here.
2. Federal loan promissory notes and applications will state the name of the federal loan program (Stafford, PLUS, Perkins, FFEL, William D. Ford Direct Loan Program, etc.) at the top of your monthly bill, and loan contract.
Compare to private loans:
Career Loan Promissory Note (Key Bank USA, N.A.)
Education Advancement Loan (Wells Fargo)
3. Most private student loans will have a disclosure statement similar to the information that is included on mortgage loans and car loans. This is because most private loans are covered by the Truth in Lending Act while federal loans are not. Sample disclosures from the Federal Reserve Board:
4. You can get information about your student loans by checking your credit report. Be aware, however, that some loans, particularly older loans, may not appear on the credit report.