First things first. To get information or resolve a problem with a student loan, you need to know who holds it. This institution or company is usually called the loan "servicer." You’ll need to contact the servicer for just about any task related to your loan, including:
- establishing or changing a payment plan
- postponing your payments through deferment or forbearance
- applying for a loan cancellation program, or
- consolidating your loans.
This article contains tips to help you find your loan servicer and work successfully with them once you do.
Finding Your Loan Servicer
Where to look for your loan servicer depends on what kind of loans you have.
Federal student loans in good standing. If you don’t know who services your federal student loans, start with the National Student Loan Data System. Choose "Financial Aid Review" and supply the requested information to get a list of all federal loans made to you.
To sign on to the system, you will need to supply:
- your Social Security number
- the first two letters of your last name
- your date of birth, and
- your U.S. Department of Education PIN number.
If you need to establish a PIN number, visit www.pin.ed.gov. The PIN website can be frustrating. If you're having problems setting up, retrieving, or changing your PIN online -- or if you need other help using the National Student Loan Data System -- call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 800-433-3243 or 800-730-8913 (TDD). Press "0" to speak to a live person.
After you retrieve the list of your loans, you can click on each loan to get details about it, including exactly what kind of federal loan it is and who services it.
Federal loans in default. If your student loans are in default, you can try locating the servicer through the Federal Student Aid Collections Office at 800-621-3115 or 800-730-8913 (TDD).
Private loans. To find the servicer of a private student loan, read the loan contract and contact the institution that made the loan.
Working With Your Loan Servicer
The U.S. Department of Education offers the following good suggestions to help you head off common problems encountered by borrowers when dealing with loan servicers:
Keep careful notes of all conversations you have. Follow up in writing so you have a physical record of what has been said and done.
Request a copy of your customer service history; some loan servicers make available copies of the notes that customer service representatives make on your account.
When you speak with someone on the phone, make a note of whom you speak to and when, and what was said. When you use mail, keep a copy of your letter and of any replies you receive.
Save the originals of all receipts, bills, letters, and e-mails regarding your account. Provide copies of the originals if you are asked for them. Send letters via certified mail, with a return receipt requested.
Don’t let the emotion of the moment get to you. If you are not getting a proper response to your questions, calmly explain again what information or resolution you are seeking.
Be polite and courteous, but don't be afraid to give the detail of any incident and to state your concerns. Write down the facts in the order they took place and stick to what is relevant. Include important details such as your account number at the top of your letter.
Ask for a response in a reasonable time, and be sure to tell the customer service representative how you can be reached.
Adapted from Resolving Disputes, on the Federal Student Aid website.
If keeping good records and being courteous didn’t do the trick, and you’re still struggling with your loan servicer, see How to Get Help With Student Loan Problems.