Before, During, and After College: Resources To Help You Understand Your Federal Student Loans

By: Tom Melecki

Few students and parents are familiar with their rights and responsibilities as student loan borrowers. Even fewer know of the resources available to help them obtain such information.

The Federal Direct Loan Program makes 90% of all student loans so, today, we’re discussing FDLP information resources for those loans.

Before and During College

To receive your first FDLP loan, you must complete an online Master Promissory Note — your loan contract with the government. It spells out your rights and responsibilities as a borrower. Review it carefully. Ask questions about it if necessary. Make a paper copy and store that copy in a safe place. You can never can tell when you’ll need it.

You must also complete online entrance counseling before you get your first FDLP loan. Pay close attention to its content. You’ll find it really helpful.

The Federal Student Aid (FSA) website is informative and easy to read. Under “Types of Aid,” open its Loans webpage for what you need to know about different FDLP loans, how to get them, their borrowing limits, and how they differ from private student loans. Back on the Loans webpage you’ll also find information on FDLP interest rates and fees.

Finally, your financial aid office should be able to advise you on FDLP loan issues that arise before and during college.

After College

The government provides online exit counseling before you leave school and repayment begins to draw near. Be sure to complete this counseling, and pay close attention to the facts it offers.

Under “Manage Loans” on the FSA website there’s guidance about different repayment plans and a link to the federal Loan Simulator you can use to estimate monthly payment amounts, numbers of monthly payments, and total amounts to be repaid under different repayment plans. It also has links about consolidating your federal student debts, making payments on them, reducing your payment amounts, and having portions of your debts forgiven, plus what happens when you go delinquent or default on those debts.

The government has some other online information services for you. One is the Federal Student Loan Programs fact sheet. Then there’s the Federal Student Loans: Basics for Students, Federal Student Loans: Direct PLUS Loan Basics for Parents, and Federal Student Loans: Repaying Your Loans brochures.

If you need advice about situations affecting your FDLP debt, call your federal loan servicer. You can review information on what servicers do and how to locate your servicer on the FSA website.

No matter which federal loans you have, bookmark and use these resources. Only by being well-informed will you be able to manage your federal college debt well.

Contact College Affordability Solutions for free consultations if you have difficulty understanding anything about any of your student loans.

This article originally appeared on

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Dr. Tom Melecki is the founder of College Affordability Solutions. He created it in 2015 after retiring from a 39 year career in postsecondary education. His work in college affordability began at The University of Texas Austin (UT), where he served for 10 years in the financial aid office, including as the director of that office during the last seven years of his postsecondary career.

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