Q: How to check if your student loan is in default?

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The easiest way to check if your federal student loan is in default is to visit the Department of Educations' studentaid.gov website. That site lists all the federal student loans and federal student aid received for its student loan borrowers.

There's no similar system for defaulted private student loans. To find out if your private loan is in default, you'll need to contact the loan servicer or loan holder.

Click here to visit the Student Loan Default Learning Center

What is student loan default?

Student loan default occurs when you don’t make your payments as agreed. For federal student loans, you default after 270 days of nonpayment. For private student loans, you typically default (your lender may refer to you as being delinquent) when you miss one of your payments. Check the promissory note to see how it defines default.

If you’re simply delinquent and not yet in default, contact your loan servicer to learn your options for preventing default. You may be able to use a deferment or forbearance to cover the missed loan payments.

Can you get your student loans out of default?

You typically can get your private student loans out of default by paying the missed loan payments. Another option may be to request a deferment or forbearance. Contact your student loan servicer to learn your options.

As for federal student loans, once you default, and your loan is moved from your servicer to a debt collector, you have few options for getting out of default. You may be able to have the default status removed from a defaulted student loan by:

  • negotiating a student loan settlement;
  • applying for a Direct Consolidation loan; or
  • entering into the loan rehabilitation program.

Click here to learn How to Get Student Loans Out of Default.

How long does it take to get out of default on student loans?

Private lenders may allow you to bring your defaulted loan current by paying the monthly payments you missed. If that’s the case, you can get out of default as soon as you pay. Contact your loan holder or servicer to learn your options.

Federal loans take anywhere from 2 months to 10 months to get out of default.

A consolidation loan will get you out of default in 2 to 3 months. You can apply for a loan consolidation loan at studentaid.gov. (You'll need an FSA ID to login.)

Once logged in, you’ll select the loans (including the defaulted loan) you wish to consolidate. You’ll also be able to choose the servicer you wish to handle your loan debt thereafter. This is the only time you’ll have that option.

The loan rehabilitation program takes about 9 to 10 months to complete. Under the program, you’ll make 9 monthly payments. After your ninth payment, your defaulted loan will be sent to a new servicer. Once there, you’ll likely want to apply for an income-driven repayment plan. This way you’ll have affordable student loan payments for the next 12 months.

What are the consequences of defaulting on federal student loans?

Here are the consequences of defaulting on federal student loans:

  • wage garnishment
  • Social Security offset
  • tax refund offset
  • credit score decrease

In addition, you no longer qualify for loan forgiveness programs, income-based repayment options, and new federal financial aid. Once out of default, you regain access to all three.

So if you’re trying to go back to school fast, and you need student aid to pay for it, you may want to look into consolidation.

What happens if your student loans go to collections?

Once your defaulted loan goes to collections, the debt collector will contact you (usually, but no always) to discuss your options.

For private student loans, the repayment options presented will usually start with paying the loan balance in full. If you’re unable to do that, they may offer you a settlement for a portion of the loan balance.

Defaulted federal student loans have a slightly different process.

Here’s what that process looks like:

  • the collection agency will send you a notice you’re in default and explain your repayment options;
  • next, sometime after that, they’ll send you another letter repeating your repayment options and warning you of potential garnishment;
  • \if you don’t respond, they’ll send you a notice of proposed garnishment and restate your repayment options once more; and
  • if you still don’t respond, they’ll send a garnishment order to your job.

Can you get student loan forgiveness if you are in default?

You can get student loan forgiveness/cancellation for your defaulted loans f:

  • You’re totally and permanently disabled;
  • You qualify for the Borrower’s Defense to Repayment program; or
  • You don’t owe the student loans due to fraud or other various bad acts.

Visit the US Department of Education's Borrower Defense to Repayment site to find out more information about that program.

Coronavirus/COVID 19

The US Department of Education suspended collection activities on defaulted federal loans it owns. 

Please note two things. 

First, the Department of Education doesn’t own all federal student loans. 

Some federal loans (Federal Family Education Loans) are owned by guaranty agencies like ECMC, MOHELA, Trellis, etc. Others are owned by schools (Perkins Loans). 

To find out what type of loan you have and who owns it, call the National Student Loan Data System at 1-800-999-8219 or the Student Loan Support Center at 1-800-557-7394. 

Second, the suspension is temporary. It will last until the end of September 2020.

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