A few years ago, multiple platforms existed to check student aid-related information. Such an approach to information sharing confused both borrowers and student aid providers. As a result, the Education Department decided to create a centralized system where people could access their data from a single location. A Student Aid website was used for this purpose which also integrated the National Student Loan Data System database. This database collects and stores information regarding people who apply for student aid programs. In turn, applicants can check their balances, loan terms, or payment status with this tool.
Yet, the terminology and the processes regarding NSLDS can be complex to understand. This guide answers 15 questions to help you better utilize the database and avoid its drawbacks.
1. What is the National Student Loan Data System?
The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) was a database that collected information for student aid. The Education Department created this tool to monitor financial student aid processes. They accessed information regarding student aid activities of schools, agencies, various programs like Direct loans, etc. The aim of this database was to create a centralized tracking system that can provide data throughout the lifecycle of aid, from its disbursement to repayment.
2. What Type of Information is Stored in the Database?
If you have applied for or received student aid, it was highly likely that your qualifications were stored in the National Student Loan Data System. Whether you applied for Direct, FFEL, or Perkins loans, your records can be found in this database. Borrowers could check their student loan statuses, different types of loans they had, etc. The database was integrated into the NSLDS.ed.gov website. Besides, the database was not only for loan processes. It also integrated data for other types of student aids, such as federal grants.
3. How the National Student Loan Database Changed?
Before, borrowers signed to the National Student Loan Database System to view their information. It was possible to check the outstanding balance, interest rate, and other terms in their accounts in the database.
However, in 2020, this process changed. Intending to create a centralized location for student aids, the officials integrated NSLDS into the StudentAid.gov website. As a result, borrowers need to sign in to their accounts on this website rather than in the database to view their student aid data.
4. Why was NSLDS.ed.gov Moved?
One of the main aims of integrating the National Student Loan Data System into the Student Aid website was centralization. Before centralizing the system, the borrowers or financial aid applicants used four different websites to manage their information. Those websites were:
Sure, having different tools to manage student aid made the process complex both for the borrower and the officials. As a result, the officials decided to simplify this process and moved all processes to StudentAid.gov from all other websites, including the one for the National Student Loan Data System.
5. Where to Check Borrower Data Now?
As mentioned, borrowers do not need to sign into the National Student Loan Data System through NSLDS.ed.gov anymore to check their student aid-related data. Instead, you need to visit StudentAid.gov and sign in to their Federal Student Aid (FSA) account. Student Aid website is a single, centralized, one-stop location to manage data regarding student debt or other financial aid programs. For example, you can check your balance and loan terms with this tool. Besides, you can fill and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) if you wish to apply for aid from this single location.
Additionally, borrowers can get guided through programs like loan entrance and exit counseling. You can also change your repayment plan and get more informed about your student debt resolution strategies.
6. How to Check a Student Aid Account in StudentAid.gov?
First, you need to sign up and get an FSA ID to check your student aid-related information. FSA ID is a combination of password and username that identifies you uniquely. This ID helps you access information related to student aid programs. Besides, it allows users to sign documents electronically.
Keep in mind that before 2015, FSA PIN was used. If you have not used this account since then, you may need to set up a new FSA ID to access your account.
Generally, Social Security Number and contact information are necessary for signing up. Moreover, you will be asked simple personal questions such as date of birth and full name. Once the information is submitted, the site (StudentAid.gov) can generate the FSA ID you need. However, it can take one to three days to verify your information, depending on the case. Till verification, you will not be able to access the National Student Loan Data System or use FSA ID for other purposes. Again, keep in mind that this ID is unique, and you should not share it with others. In case your parents borrow loans for you, they still need to create their own FSA ID.
It is possible to access the Federal Student Aid database from your desktop or by mobile application. You will only need your FSA ID and password to view information.
7. How to Check a Student Aid Account in NSLDS?
You can also use the National Student Loan Data System for students to view student aid information. You can visit NSLDS.ed.gov for this purpose. However, again, you will be required to provide FSA ID and password to access your account. Once you log in successfully, you will see your original debt balance, loan types, interest rates per loan, payment status, and loan servicing company details.
8. How Else to Access Student Aid Information?
The National Student Loan Data System can have drawbacks. Sometimes, not all loans appear in this database. For example, if your parents took loans for you, the loan-related information will appear in your parent’s account instead of yours. Moreover, if you took loans recently, it is possible that loan information will take some time till it appears in the database.
In such cases, you can still contact your school’s financial aid office and get more information about your student aid programs. The officer should be able to check your account information and view different activities under your name.
Additionally, keep in mind that your lender can be different from what appears in the database. Sometimes, you see the original lender or loan servicer in the system. However, your loan changed hands since your first disbursement. In this case, further investigation is required to identify who is handling your student debt.
9. What about Private Loans?
Although the National Student Loan Data System now integrates all federal student aid programs in centralized locations, it still does not cover private student loans. In other words, you can only access information regarding federal student aid programs. When it comes to private debt, it is handled by different private lenders. They use their databases, and there is no centralized database that integrates account information from all lenders.
10. How to View Private Loan Balances?
As mentioned, there is no centralized database for private student loans. However, there still exist ways to view and check private debt-related information.
For example, you can contact the school’s financial aid officers. They can help you identify who your lender is. Besides, if you know the lender, you can directly contact them. Even if lenders changed since you took loans, the original lender could direct you to the correct organization handling your loans. In addition, the lenders can help you identify how much you owe, what your interest rate is, etc.
Additionally, generating your credit report can also be helpful. Three major credit agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, provide loan-related information. It is possible to find which company was your original loan servicer through these reports. It can be a good start if you are not sure about who is handling the loans.
11. Why is Checking Loan Data Important?
Till now, we discussed the National Student Loan Data System and other tools to check student aid information. However, it is also important to understand why you need to be aware of this information in the first place.
There exist several reasons why you should be completely familiar with your student aid activities. First, some borrowers have multiple loans. They can have different due dates and repayment requirements. If a borrower gets confused and misses a payment, it can affect the credit score. Losing track of payments can result in a lower credit score and hurt your credibility. Hence, checking this data ensures you are ahead of requirements.
Besides repayment details, you need to know your debt balance. Federal student loans have maximum loan limits, and you cannot borrow more than this amount. This limit changes based on year of study and loan type. If you still need to receive more loans, you should know what the limit is and how much you are already exhausted.
Additionally, your owed balance in the National Student Loan Data System can be different from what you originally owed. Sure, the interest rate has a huge impact on this change. However, other factors like accrued interests can also increase your debt balance. Therefore, make sure you check your account regularly and understand the changes.
12. What if Information in the National Data System is Wrong?
The National Student Loan Data System collects and stores information in its database. Meanwhile, StudentAid.gov helps people in need to access their information. The data is collected from different lenders, loan servicers, agencies, etc. Therefore, it is possible that you will see outdated or inaccurate information in your FSA account. In this case, FSA is not the one creating the problem. Instead, you need to contact your data provider and check with them about what is wrong. If you have exhausted your options and still there is no resolution, you can submit a complaint through the feedback center of Federal Student Aid.
13. What is Exit Counseling?
The platform also allows borrowers to perform exit counseling. Exit counseling is available to borrowers when they graduate or leave school. Besides, if their study falls below half-time, exit counseling is necessary. In other words, exit counseling is about repayment, and it is required when the borrower becomes eligible for repayment. Whether you have FFEL, PLUS, subsidized or unsubsidized loans, you will be required to complete counseling.
You will be more informed about repayment after this program. It will explain how much your debt balance is and how long it will take for you to get rid of it. Besides, it will explain different types of loans, together with the necessary terminology.
14. What are Some Tips for the Database?
We mentioned many details throughout the guide. However, it is helpful to repeat some ideas to help you understand the National Student Loan Data System.
The database is only for Federal Debt.
You can only find information regarding your federal loans in the National Student Loan Data System for students. Unfortunately, balances from private lenders do not appear in this system. Therefore, you will be better off if you contact your private lender to get more information about loans.
Refinancing Loans Do not Appear.
Besides, if you decide to refinance a federal loan, this debt will no longer appear in the database. This is because when you refinance, you pay out existing debt, in this case, a federal loan. Instead, you take a refinancing loan from private lenders and use the funds to pay out the federal debt. Hence, your balance will be $0 even if you check the National Student Loan Data System. So, again, if you want to check your balance for refinancing loans, contact your refinancing company first.
Do not Share FSA ID.
FSA ID is a username and password combination that helps users to access their accounts. Your social security number, date of birth, and other personal information are asked when creating FSA ID. Besides, it can be used to sign documents electronically, which is legally binding.
Hence, you need to ensure that the FSA ID is stored somewhere safely. You should not forget it, but you should not write it somewhere that strangers can easily access it. If you want to reset your ID, it will take many steps and security checks which makes it undesirable.
The Database is not Always Accurate.
While the National Student Loan Data System is an excellent tool to centralize and collect student aid information, it also has flaws. For example, the information appearing in your account might not always be up-to-date or can contain inaccurate pieces. In this case, it is better to contact your information provider, which is mostly a loan servicer.
15. What if I cannot Afford repayment?
The National Student Loan Data System tool aims to help borrowers identify their balances, payment status, etc. It generally provides information and prepares borrowers for repayment. However, it does not help debtors if they struggle with repayment.
Financially struggling borrowers can check the materials on the Student Aid website to find out a debt resolution strategy. Specifically, Income-driven repayment plans and options like forbearance or deferment can help such borrowers.
Besides, borrowers can contact their loan servicers which can be found through the National Student Loan Data System, and ask the servicer to guide them in case of repayment difficulty. However, if the loan servicer is also not highly effective, it is advisable to contact third-party debt specialists, like those in Student Loans Resolved. Our debt specialists can help you understand student aid processes better and find a way to get rid of student loans quickly. We also provide a completely free consultation to describe your options.