Student loans are often a necessary part of the path to getting a college degree. While the idea of taking on debt is rarely fun, these loans act as an investment in yourself and your pursuit of a healthier financial future. But managing those student loans can seem daunting. You may have several loans that need to be paid to multiple servicers. Some student loans may have different terms, payment dates and repayment options, creating a web of loans and documents you need to manage.
It’s understandable that you may turn to your credit report to get some clarity, only to see more student loan accounts than you think you have. Don’t be alarmed if this has happened to you, as there may be a reason for it.
It makes sense to think that if you’re going to one school, you’ll just have one big loan to pay when you graduate. But every time your school provides aid, a new loan may be created. This can make it confusing to know the number of student loans you may actually get. For federal loans, aid payment usually happens each fall and spring semester. So, you could have more than one loan for every full year you’re attending school. You can also apply for private loans any time, and every new private loan will appear on your credit report too.
If you decide to refinance or consolidate your student loans, things will change on your credit report as well. When you pull your report, you’ll be able to see both the current and former loan accounts. You’re actually creating a new loan when you consolidate or refinance student loans. The lender pays off the outstanding balances on your original loans and brings that amount into your new loan. Your old loan accounts aren’t removed from your credit report when this happens. Instead, the old accounts won’t be considered active and should be marked as “transferred” when you see them on your credit report. This is a normal status indicator and isn’t considered a negative mark on your credit.
To avoid credit report surprise, take some time to review all the information you have about your student loans. A student loan audit might seem like a pain, but spending a little time now may save you a lot of frustration later.
The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) is an important tool you can use to track your student loans. It has key information about your federal student loans, including the loan amounts, interest rates and account statuses. One crucial section for every loan is the servicer contact information. This lets you know where you should make payments. If you’re still in school and have questions about your student loans, you can also talk to a financial aid officer. They’re there to answer questions you have about the details of your financial aid package.
If you don’t already, start keeping all letters about your student loans. If you have a new servicer or a different lender purchases one of your loans, you’ll get a letter in the mail letting you know about the change. This paper trail will help you stay on top of your loans so you can keep making your payments on time.
If you complete the review of your student loans and still think an account or piece of information on your credit report is inaccurate, you may want to reach out to the lender directly. They’ll have more information about the specifics of your account. You can also submit a dispute online. Disputing online with TransUnion is fast, easy and free, and it won’t impact your credit score.
These suggestions might seem like a lot of work. Isn’t graduation supposed to be the end of homework? But think of it like taking time to get organized at the start of each semester so you can save time and stress later on. Missing key student loan information or payments can cost more than your credit GPA — it can cost you money in the form of late fees. A successful financial plan involves being well organized and consistently monitoring your accounts. Starting with your student loans is a good first step.