Don’t wait until a bill arrives before taking control of your student loan debt. Instead, use the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) to know exactly how much student debt you owe and plan your next steps.
It can be easy to get caught up in the busyness of school and forget some of the smaller loans you might have taken out, which is why the NSLDS is a great tool for all graduates to use. Don’t think that your loan servicer will come to you with a neat and tidy bill, because that is not always the case with federal loans. If you read our MyFedLoan Review, you can see that sometimes loan servicers are a little unreliable when it comes to keeping track of your payments.
But with the NSLDS, you can discover exactly how much debt you owe, along with other loan details, so you can forgo ruining your credit score and finances with late payments. Here’s what you need to know about finding your loan information on the NSLDS.
What is NSLDS?
The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) is run by the U.S. Department of Education and is the central database for student aid. It keeps track of all federal student loan debt acquired by each student, no matter what school they attended.
According to a January 2015 National Data Initiatives bulletin released by the Institute for Higher Education Policy, the NSLDS was first authorized and set up as part of the 1986 Higher Education Act (HEA) Amendments with the purpose to:
- Improve the quality and accessibility of student aid data
- Reduce the administrative burden of Title IV Aid
- Minimize fraud and abuse of student aid programs
The NSLDS receives information directly from schools, agencies that guarantee loans, the Direct Loan program (both subsidized and unsubsidzed), and other U.S. Department of Education programs. The database only tracks Title IV loans and grants through their entire cycle – from the day you were approved for aid to the day you paid it off.
This data system is also useful for monitoring your debt repayment process through the years after graduation. You can check your information to see remaining debt obligations at any time.
You can even take your debt repayment one step further to keep you motivated during repayment. Screenshot your debt obligations and keep the image as a screensaver on your phone or computer. Every time you are tempted to shop online or order from Starbucks, you will be reminded of your financial goals.
What is Included on the NSLDS?
The NSLDS includes loan information for the following students:
- Perkins loan borrowers
- Direct loan borrowers
- FFELP loan borrowers
- Pell Grant recipients
- SMART Grant recipients
- TEACH Grant recipients
- Academic Competitiveness Grant recipients
Your information will be available on the database as soon as you have an aid application approved. This means you can track your loan information even as a college freshman. Your NSLDS profile can include the following:
- You full name
- Loan or grant type
- The institute you received the loan from, as well as any other institutes you enrolled in
- How much money was disbursed
- Date of disbursement
- Loan balance (last-updated for the site, not always the most current)
- Loan status
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness progress
- Income-driven repayment plan anniversary date
NSLDS will also show the servicer of your loan, which will be one of the following:
- FedLoan Services (PHEAA)
- Granite State – GSMR
- Great Lakes Educational Loan Services, Inc.
- OSLA Servicing
- Debt Management and Collections System
The information you see in the database is typically accurate, but it can also be slightly outdated or lagging. Many times, you will not see a decrease in your debt for up to 30 days after you submit a payment. In some cases, loan balances can take 120 days to update.
If you are worried about the accuracy of your loan, it’s best to contact your loan servicer directly to ensure your payments are being applied to your account. They have the most updated information on your loan.
Another important thing to note is that older student loans (from before 1989), will not show up. Nope, they didn’t magically go away, so don’t stop paying on your retro loans if you still have them. Similarly, information on loans before 2010 might be limited because the database has gone through significant changes since its launch.
What You Won’t Find on NSLDS
While the NSLDS database is useful for tracking federal student loans, remember that you will have to keep track of your private or refinanced loans separately. Even if you refinance your federal loans, the database would show them as closed and would no longer track how much was owed on the loan, since a private lender is now the loan holder.
You also will not be able to track Parent PLUS loans someone else took out for your education. Those can be tracked through that individual’s FSA ID and account. You also will not find co-signed loans.
If you have medical or nursing student loan debt, you will not be able to track it through this database, either. Even though medical and nursing debt is part of the federal Title IV loan program, it is not reported to the database. The reason for not including medical school debt is not clear, but it could be due to not wanting medical students to face loan limits. Similarly, work-study awards are not reported to the NSLDS database. For both medical and nursing debt and work-study awards, contact the school directly for your loan amount and lender information.
The NSLDS site can show you outstanding loan balances, but it cannot break down how much principal and interest you have left. It is also not an accurate picture of your payoff amount since payoff amounts include interest and any fees/charges from your lender.
How to Sign Up for an Account
Signing up for an NSLDS account is simple. Visit the website and log in with your FSA ID and password. You should have received a FSA ID when you applied for financial aid and student loans through through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
If you did not receive a FSA ID, you can create one through the NSLDS site. There is also an option to find your FSA ID and password if you don’t have it. Note that the process to create or to find your FSA ID can take a few days since your social security number will need to be verified.
At some point, you will be required to do exit counseling, which is usually done with a counselor from your school. They will go over your NSLDS information to make sure you are aware of your debt responsibilities. If you did not attend exit counseling, you can do so through studentloans.gov.
How Safe is NSLDS?
The NSLDS website uses your FSA ID and password to log in. Your information is also protected by federal privacy laws, so you don’t have to worry about a nosy friend or co-worker gaining access to your private information.
The NSLDS is able to report to the following exchange or have data accessed by the following systems:
- Enrollment Reporting
- Notification Package
- NSLDS Online Services
- Federal Perkins Loan
- Gainful Employment Reporting and Electronic Gainful Employment Notification Package (eGE)
- GA Account Maintenance Fee and Annual Reasonability
- Transfer Student Monitoring and/or Financial Aid History
- Electronic Cohort Default Rate (eCDR)
- Exit Counseling Reports
While your NSLDS profile shows information about your loans, the database indirectly collects borrower age, gender, income, field of study, and more. Most of its data is not widely available to policymakers, researchers, or the public, but additional uses are not prohibited.
Federal Student Aid generates reports on aid volume, repayment behavior, and cohort default rates for its own FSA Data Center website.
Using the NSLDS site is a good way to keep track of your loans. The database can also help you track your payments for Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) progress. This is important due to the program’s strict policies against missing one of the 120-month payments.
Remember that while the NSLDS is a helpful tool, you still need to rely on your lender and school for the most updated loan information. If anything is reported incorrectly, your school’s financial aid department will need to be notified to change it.
If for some reason you are having trouble tracking down your private or medical school student loans, you can access a free credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com to discover which student loans you are responsible for and who the lender is.
While not as complete as a credit report, free credit score information is also available through a site like Credit Sesame. These services can be a good way to monitor your credit throughout the year and alert you to any changes that could be an early indicator of ID theft.
For more information about refinancing, this list of our favorite student loan refinancing companies includes some of the best rates available this month.
Thanks so much for reading and good luck!
Have you used the NSLDS to track your student loans? Let us know about your experience in the comments below!