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A federal student loan servicer is the middleman between you and the federal government, which lent you money for college. Getting to know your servicer is the secret weapon in the battle to get rid of your loans.
Student loan servicers collect your student loan bills and keep track of whether you pay them on time. They also help borrowers switch repayment plans, certify for forgiveness programs and sign up to postpone loan payments.
Your servicer’s job is to help keep your loans in good standing by giving you the support and resources you need. But they're also private companies, which means they may offer choices that are not necessarily in the borrower’s best interest. You must be your own advocate by knowing your repayment options and asking questions.
How to find your federal student loan servicer
If your loan payments haven’t begun or you’re not sure who your servicer is, log in to My Federal Student Aid to find out. You'll need to create an FSA ID to sign in. Then you can see your servicer, view loan details, apply for a direct consolidation loan or sign up for an income-driven repayment plan.
Knowing your student loan servicer’s name — and feeling comfortable contacting the company — is the first step toward getting ahead of your loans. You can get in touch with all of the loan servicer contact centers by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID.
All servicers offer similar help and services. But if you're having trouble with yours, you might want to make a change. There are only a few ways this can happen. Choose a goal below to determine your best option
What do federal student loan servicers do?
Collect and keep track of your payments
Servicers manage student loans on behalf of the federal government and private lenders. So while you may have a federal student loan, you’ll work with a private company to pay it off.
Your servicer will contact you after the first federal loan is paid out to you. Register for an account on its website right away, so you can keep track of how much you’ve taken out and how much interest adds up while you’re in school. You can also use your online account to pay off the interest that has accrued before it capitalizes, or is added to your total balance at the end of the student loan grace period.
Six months after you leave school your first bill will arrive. Sign up for automatic monthly payments so you’re less likely to fall behind on your loans. But be sure you have enough money in your bank account each month to cover the cost.
Help you choose or switch repayment plans
Your servicer will place you on the 10-year standard student loan repayment plan unless you pick a different one during your exit counseling session around the time you leave school. The standard plan breaks up your balance into 120 fixed payments. But that may be difficult to afford if you have a lot of debt.
Student loan servicers can help you figure out if you’re eligible for one of the government’s income-driven repayment plans, which cap your bills at a percentage of your income. See what you’d pay on an income-driven plan using the government’s student loan repayment estimator tool.
If you decide to switch, your servicer will process your application and annual income recertification, which you must submit to stay eligible.
Customize your loan payments
Once you start earning enough money to pay extra toward your loans, you might want to pay off certain loans first — like the ones with the highest interest rates, which will help you save money in the long run. Contributing more than your scheduled payment will reduce both your overall balance and the interest you pay over time, so kick in a little more than you need to when you can.
Call, email or write your servicer a letter instructing it how to apply additional money. Otherwise, they may apply extra payments toward your next month's bill.
Process your requests for deferment or forbearance
During your repayment term, there may be periods when you can’t afford your loan bill. Call your loan servicer to let it know as soon as you can. You can apply for deferment or forbearance, temporary postponements of your payments during periods of financial difficulty.
The federal government made all student loans eligible for interest-free forbearance in March 2020 as a pandemic emergency measure. It has extended the payment pause several times since then.
Help you certify for loan forgiveness
You may be eligible for student loan forgiveness if you work in certain fields for a period of time. To make sure you’re on track to get the benefit, your servicer can help you determine whether your loans are eligible, whether you’re on a qualifying repayment plan and whether you’ve properly filled out any certification forms.
Applying for a student loan forgiveness program could mean changing servicers.
For instance, the servicer MOHELA will become your servicer if you apply for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which forgives the remaining balance of your loans after you make 120 payments while working at a nonprofit or for the government.
As of November 2022, MOHELA manages all loans enrolled in PSLF. MOHELA began migrating loans from PSLF’s previous servicer FedLoan Servicing in July 2022. The transfer process was automatic and did not change the existing terms or forgiveness plans available on the loans. FedLoan is no longer active; its government contract ended on Dec. 14, 2022.
Once you begin the process of certifying your eligibility, your loans will be transferred to MOHELA if it’s not already your servicer. Learn more about forgiveness programs and how to apply.
Servicing changes are underway
To streamline the servicing landscape, the Department of Education announced in April 2023 that it signed new contracts with five student loan servicers: Maximus Education (also known as Aidvantage, its student loan arm), Edfinancial, MOHELA, Nelnet and Central Research, Inc. The first four companies have existing servicer contracts, but Arkansas-based government contractor Central Research is new to the list. OSLA, a current servicer, did not receive a new contract.
The new contracts are scheduled to go live sometime in 2024, but government officials said they will extend legacy contracts through December 2024 to smooth the servicer transition.
All federal student loan borrowers will eventually be able to access their accounts through the StudentAid.gov website, regardless of their servicer, as part of a longer term project tied to the overhaul. (Currently, borrowers must manage their accounts directly through their specific servicer's website.) This change is intended to reduce disruptions from account transfers and increase servicer accountability, the Education Department said in a press release.
Building a centralized online student loan servicer portal is a tall order, so borrowers shouldn't expect it to roll out for at least a couple of years, says Scott Buchanan, executive director of the Student Loan Servicing Alliance.
Recent servicer portfolio transfers
Outside of the new contract landscape, some servicer changes are already playing out.
Granite State (GSMR) and Navient concluded servicing loans in December 2021. GSMR's loans were transferred to Edfinancial. Navient's loans were transferred to Aidvantage, the servicing arm of Maximus, a government contractor.
FedLoan Servicing stopped servicing all loans as of Dec. 14, 2022, when its contract with the government expired. Loans in the FedLoan portfolio have been transferred to one of the following servicers: MOHELA, Edfinancial, Aidvantage or Nelnet.
Great Lakes is already nearing the end of its contract. It began moving its portfolio to Nelnet in March 2022, and the transfer is slated to wrap up in the spring of 2023.
Prior to servicing contracts ending, borrowers should do the following:
Download and save your payment history from your online account or request a copy from your servicer.
Update your contact information with your most recent address, phone number and email address.
You’ll be notified when a loan servicing transfer happens, and you’ll manage payments with the new servicer. All servicers deliver the same options and programs, but customer service may differ from one to another.
Here's how to find out who your servicer is what they can do for you.
The list of federal student loan servicers
Learn more about each of the federal loan servicers, including what they can do and how to contact.
Aidvantage (took over Navient portfolio)
Edfinancial Services (took over GSMR portfolio)
American Education Services manages only FFEL Program debt.
Default Resolution Group services only federal student loans in default.
Heartland ECSI is a servicer for borrowers with federal Perkins loans.
FedLoan Servicing is no longer active.