Student loans that the federal government provides or guarantees usually fall into two categories: Federal Direct Loans and Federal Family Education Loans (FFELs). The Department of Education makes Federal Direct Loans. Before July 1, 2010, the federal government also guaranteed loans that private lenders made. These loans—FFELs—are also considered federal student loans. Perkins Loans, another kind of federal student loans, were previously available to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students who had exceptional financial need.
No matter what type of federal student loans you have, you might need to know, and deal with, the loan holder or loan servicer.
A loan "holder" is the entity that owns your student loan, such as the U.S. Department of Education in the case of a Direct Loan. For an FFEL, the holder might be a lender, secondary market, guaranty agency, or the Department of Education.
The loan holder may choose to employ a loan servicer to manage the day-to-day activities of handling your loan account. The servicer takes care of billing, processing payments, providing repayment options, and sending communications to borrowers. If you want to set up a repayment plan, postpone payments, cancel a loan, or apply for some other government program, you need to know who services your federal student loan. Basically, the servicer is a third party that acts as a liaison between you and the holder of the loan.
You don't get to choose your loan servicer. The loan holder assigns one. So, if you have federal student loans, the Department of Education picks your loan servicer.
To find out who your loan servicer is, contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 800-433-3243.
Here are some other ways to find out the servicer (or holder) of your federal student loans:
To get information about your federal student loans, use these sources.
The Department of Education's central database for student aid—the National Student Loan Data System—provides information about what kind of loan you have, as well as loan or grant amounts, outstanding balances, loan status, and disbursements. Identification information is required to access the database. You'll need a user ID and password to get into the system, which you can get online. You can also access the database by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center.
For help accessing the National Student Loan Data System and to find information about the holder of your loan, as well as other information on your loans, call the Department of Education's Federal Student Aid Information Center at 800-433-3243 or 800-730-8913 (TDD). For loans in default, contact the Department of Education's Default Resolution Group at 800-621-3115 or 877-825-9923 (TDD).
If you've tried all of these places and are still in need of help, consider contacting the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman office. The Department of Education's student loan ombudsman helps borrowers with student loan problems. The ombudsman is a last resource; usually, it will help you only after you've tried to resolve your issue yourself. You can contact the student loan ombudsman office at 877-557-2575.
If you need help dealing with your servicer or need information about available student loan repayment and forgiveness options, consider consulting with a student loan attorney or debt settlement attorney who deals with student loans.