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A simple yet important tool for every student taking out and paying back their student loans, the National Student Loan Data System (or NSLDS for short) can help to identify basic information about your federal loans.

This guide will help you understand what exactly the NSLDS is, how to use it, and what sort of information you’ll be able to access through the portal.

What is the NSLDS?

The NSLDS is a database maintained by the U.S. Department of Education to aggregate loan and grant data for all students who utilize federal funds to pay for school—both while you’re in school and once you’re repaying your loans.

The NSLDS allows borrowers to see a snapshot of all their federal loan and grant data. When you log into the NSLDS, you’ll be able to see which types of loans you have, the original amount borrowed for each loan, current loan balances and statuses, and the servicer or holder of the loan.

While this information seems fairly straightforward, keep in mind that, in many cases, you’ll take out loans before even starting your degree, and won’t start paying them back until after you’ve graduated.

For better or for worse, that means you’ll have four years to forget all of the important information about your loans, only to need it again when it comes time to repay them.

The NSLDS can also be a useful resource as you’re paying off your loans, as it provides a simple snapshot of your total remaining loan obligations.

If you’re the type of person that needs ongoing encouragement to stay motivated, log into the NSLDS every so often to see how your loan balances are decreasing as you make your payments.

What is an FSA ID and how do I get one?

You’ll need your FSA ID to log into the NSLDS, so we’ll go over what that is and how to get one.

Your FSA ID is a username and password that controls your online access to federal student aid services, including FAFSA, StudentLoans.gov, and the NSLDS. In addition to granting you access to these websites, your FSA ID can also be used to electronically sign any necessary loan paperwork.

FSA ID took the place of the Federal Student Aid PIN on May 10, 2015, so if you haven’t logged into any federal student aid websites since then, you may need to create a new ID.

You can do so here—but most people who have filled out a FAFSA recently will already have one.

The process of setting up a new FSA ID includes choosing your unique username and password, as well as providing personal details such as your name, date of birth, and social security number.

You can also provide a mobile number and select a language preference, and you’ll be asked to set up some security questions in case you lose your login information.

If you’re just now setting up your FSA ID, it can take between one and three days to verify your information with the Social Security Administration, and you won’t be able to use it until then.

This is generally more of an issue for those submitting the FAFSA at the last minute, but worth keeping in mind that you won’t have access to the NSLDS until your information has been verified.

How does the NSLDS receive my student loan details, and which details are included?

The NSLDS receives information directly from:

  • Schools
  • Agencies that guaranty loans
  • The Direct Loan program
  • Other U.S. Department of Education programs

The information available from the NSLDS includes:

  • Loan type (FFEL program, Direct, Perkins, etc.)
  • Original loan balance (the original amount of money you borrowed)
  • Current loan balance (how much you still owe)
  • Loan status (in good standing, in default, etc.)
  • The holder or servicer of your loan

If you’re wondering who has your student loans, you’ll want to look at the holder or servicer section for each loan. Federal loan servicers include the following, so you can expect to see at least one of the following when you log into the NSLDS:

  • Nelnet
  • Great Lakes Educational Loan Services, Inc.
  • Navient
  • FedLoan Servicing (PHEAA)
  • MOHELA
  • HESC/EdFinancial
  • CornerStone
  • Granite State – GSMR
  • OSLA Servicing
  • Debt Management and Collections System (for loans in default)

You may also notice that some of your loans are ‘SULA eligible,’ which stands for Subsidized Usage Limit Applies. This program was implemented in May of 2013, and is designed to ensure that students who benefit from Direct Subsidized Loans do not receive interest subsidies indefinitely.

More concretely, SULA limits the amount of time students can benefit from interest subsidies to 150 percent of the length of your educational program. If you’re pursuing a four-year undergraduate degree, for example, you’ll only be able to take advantage of subsidized interest for six years if your degree takes longer than expected.

Exit counseling for federal student loans explained

Most students who have taken out federal student loans are required to complete exit counseling once they graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment. This applies to anyone who has taken out a subsidized, unsubsidized, or PLUS loan via the Direct Loan Program or the FFEL Program.

Exit counseling can help you understand how much you owe and how long it will take to pay it off, as well as explain the differences between your loan types and some basic lending terminology.

You’ll need to log inhttps://studentloans.gov/myDirectLoan/exitCounseling.action?execution=e2s1 with your FSA ID to complete exit counseling, as well as notify your school(s) that you’ve completed counseling. Most people complete exit counseling in 20-30 minutes, so it’s not a huge time commitment, and can help to kickstart your knowledge about paying off your loans.

Tips for using the NSLDS

  • Keep in mind that only federal loans are reported: If you’ve taken out private student loans, the NSLDS won’t show them, so be sure to account for any balances from private lenders—particularly because many of these loans come with higher interest rates
  • Refinanced student loans won’t show up: If you’ve refinanced your student loans with a private lender, the current balances won’t show up in the NSLDS—even if they were originally federal loans. That’s because, when you refinance, your new lender will pay off your old loan, so the balance for any federal loans should show as $0.00 once your refinancing is complete. You’ll need to contact your new lender for up-to-date information
  • Store your FSA ID somewhere safe: This applies more generally to any of your interactions with federal student aid sites, but make sure you keep your FSA ID somewhere secure—but also a place where you’ll remember it is. Resetting your login details will require going through a series of security checks, so it’s worth avoiding if possible
  • Know that information isn’t always up to date: As the information in the NSLDS comes from other parties, there can be a delay between changes (such as when you make a loan payment) and when it shows up in the NSLDS. The balance remaining data, for example, can be up to 120 days old. If you’re looking for real-time updates, contact your loan servicer directly.

While the services provided by the NSLDS are fairly straightforward, they can be valuable to federal student loan borrowers—particularly if you have multiple loans and servicers to keep track of. Make sure you understand how to access the NSLDS and what the information means to best take advantage of this free service.

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