Student Loan Assistance

Payments resumed on federal student loans starting in Oct. 2023.

Take advantage of opportunities to lower your monthly payment and access time-limited federal loan debt relief. To benefit, you may need to consolidate into the Direct Loan Program by June 30, 2024.

The steps you need to take depend on your federal loan types. You may also be able to maximize forgiveness by consolidating your older loans with your more recent loans. Follow the below guide to avoid missing out on important federal debt relief opportunities. 

Table of Contents

1. Set Up Your Studentaid.gov Account

Studentaid.gov is the U.S. Dept. of Education’s main website for federal student aid and a vital tool for managing your loans.

You can use your studentaid.gov account to:

  • identify your servicer
  • see what kinds of loans you have
  • calculate and compare payments under various repayment plans
  • enroll in repayment plans
  • apply to consolidate
  • submit employment certifications for Public Service Loan Forgiveness

If you haven’t already done so, you should also set up your online account with your federal loan servicer.

When you go to studentaid.gov, you’ll be prompted to sign in with your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID and Password. If you don’t have an FSA ID, please make one. For help setting up your FSA ID or accessing your account, call the U.S. Dept. of Education at 1-800-433-3243.

2. Find Out Your Loan Types

There are several types of federal loans, including Direct Loans, Federal Family Education Loans (FFELs), and Perkins Loans. Some borrowers have a mix of federal loan types. Additionally, while most federal loans are owned by the U.S. Dept. of Education, some are owned by private lenders. To take advantage of the new debt relief programs, most borrowers need to have Direct Loans. If you don’t already have Direct Loans, you can consolidate your federal loans into the Direct Loan Program for free.

Here’s how to see what type(s) of federal loans you have: 

  • Log in to your studentaid.gov account. If you haven’t already set up an FSA ID, please create one.
  • Once logged in, you will see your account dashboard as pictured below.
  • Click "View Details."
Student Aid view details
  • Then, scroll down to the section entitled “Loan Types.” You will see different categories of loans, as shown below. 
Example image of a borrower's loan types as shown on studentaid.gov account.
  • Click on each loan category to see all your loans within the category. In the below example, there are two loans with outstanding balances. The loan circled in blue is a Direct Loan. The loan circled in red is a FFEL Program Loan, which needs to be consolidated into the Direct Loan Program by June 30, 2024 to access most of the debt relief programs. Carefully review each loan category to see if it contains loan types other than Direct Loans. 
An example of the FFEL and Direct Loans contained in one loan type

3. If You have Non-Direct Loans, Consider Consolidating to Access Debt Relief

Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans forgive any remaining loan balance after 120-300 months of qualifying payments. Under IDR plans, most borrowers can receive forgiveness in 20 years if they have only undergraduate school debt and 25 years if they have graduate school debt or Parent PLUS Loans. However, if your original federal loan balance was $21,000 or less, the new IDR plan called SAVE offers forgiveness after 10-19 years depending on your original balance. 

To help borrowers get closer to receiving IDR loan forgiveness, the U.S. Dept. of Education will be giving borrowers credit toward forgiveness for all past repayment periods since July 1, 1994, and for certain deferments and forbearances. Through this payment count adjustment, some borrowers will receive IDR loan forgiveness while others will get closer to receiving forgiveness—even if they’ve never enrolled in an IDR plan!

However, non-Direct Loans (e.g., FFELs and Perkins Loans) need to be consolidated into the Direct Loan Program by June 30, 2024 to receive the adjustment and keep earning credit toward forgiveness under the new SAVE plan.

More than 28,000 Massachusetts borrowers have already received over $1 billion in loan forgiveness through the payment count adjustment and related programs. The final payment count adjustment is expected to occur in September 2024. 

The payment count adjustment is automatic. You should be able to see the number of months you received toward IDR loan forgiveness in your studentaid.gov account toward the end of 2024.

To keep earning credit toward IDR forgiveness, most borrowers need to be enrolled in an Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plan, such as SAVE, by September 1, 2024.

Action Plan:

  • Find out if you have any non-Direct Loans by checking your studentaid.gov account or calling the U.S. Dept. of Education at 1-800-433-3243.
  • If you have any non-Direct Loans, apply to consolidate them by June 30, 2024.  
  • Enroll in an IDR plan, such as SAVE, before September 1, 2024, to continue earning credit toward forgiveness. The ICR and PAYE plans are being phased out for many loan types in July, so if you intend to repay in one of those plans, apply now. 

More Information:

4. If Some Loans are Older than Others, Consider Consolidating to Speed Up Debt Relief

If some of your loans have been in repayment longer than others, the payment count adjustment will provide forgiveness faster on your more recent loans if you consolidate them with your older loans. For example: if you consolidate a loan that’s been in repayment for 50 months with a loan that’s been in repayment for 100 months, the resulting Consolidation Loan will receive 100 months toward IDR forgiveness.

Action Plan:

  • If some of your loans have been in repayment longer than others, consider applying to consolidate all your loans by June 30, 2024.  
  • Enroll in an IDR plan, such as SAVE, before September 1, 2024, to continue earning credit toward forgiveness. The ICR and PAYE plans are being phased out for many loan types in July, so if you intend to repay in one of those plans, apply now. 

5. Can’t Afford Your Payments or Need More Credit Toward IDR Forgiveness? Explore IDR and the New SAVE Plan

You may be able to significantly lower your payments by enrolling in an Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plan, like the new SAVE plan. IDR plans base your monthly payment on your income and family size rather than your loan balance. They also offer the possibility of significant government interest subsidies and loan forgiveness. You can learn more about the new SAVE plan by watching this video from the U.S. Department of Education.

Lower Payments: The new SAVE plan is the most affordable IDR plan in history. Rather than protecting income under 150% of the federal poverty line, as most other IDR plans do, the SAVE plan protects income under 225%. This means it will cut monthly payments to $0 if you make less than $32,801 individually (or under $67,501 for a family of four).

Government Interest Subsidies: The new SAVE plan eliminates any remaining interest after a scheduled payment is made, preventing your loan balance from growing while you're in the plan.

Forgiveness Timelines: Under IDR plans, most borrowers can receive forgiveness in 20 years if they have only undergraduate school debt and 25 years if they have graduate school debt or Parent PLUS Loans. However, if your original federal loan balance was $21,000 or less, the SAVE plan offers forgiveness after 10-19 years, depending on your original balance. 

You May Be Closer to IDR Forgiveness Than You Think: As part of a debt relief initiative known as the payment count adjustment, in September 2024, borrowers with federally owned loans (e.g., Direct Loans) will receive credit toward IDR forgiveness for many of their past payments and certain forbearances and deferments. This IDR payment count adjustment will bring many borrowers closer to receiving IDR forgiveness. Later this year, your new IDR qualifying payment counts should be displayed in your studentaid.gov account, enabling you to track your progress toward IDR forgiveness. Keep in mind that to continue earning credit toward IDR forgiveness, most borrowers will need to enroll in an IDR plan, like SAVE.

You can estimate your payments under the new SAVE plan using this chart 

  • Only Direct Loans are eligible for SAVE. But you can consolidate non-Direct Loans into the Direct Loan Program to make them eligible.
  • SAVE payments on undergraduate debt will go down by 50% starting in July 2024.
  • The ICR and PAYE plans are being phased out for many loan types in July, so if you intend to repay in one of those plans, apply now. 
  • If you were enrolled in the REPAYE plan at the start of the pandemic, you should have been automatically placed in SAVE. However, if your income decreased since your REPAYE payment was last calculated, you should reapply at studentaid.gov/idr to lower your payment.
  • If you were enrolled in other IDR plans, like PAYE, IBR, or ICR at the start of the pandemic, and your income significantly increased since your payment was last calculated, before switching to SAVE, compare your monthly payment under your old plan to your estimated SAVE payment. It’s possible that the benefits of SAVE will be wiped out by your increased income, and once you report your higher income to the U.S. Dept. of Education or your loan servicer, you can’t unreport it.
    • In rare cases, you may wish to stay in PAYE, IBR, or ICR even if your income has stayed the same or decreased (e.g., due to a shorter forgiveness window under PAYE for graduate school borrowers or lower payments under ICR for borrowers with low loan balances). In this circumstance, recertifying your income will lower your payment. By requesting recalculation, more of your income will be protected because the new higher 2023 poverty guidelines will be used to calculate your payment.
    • You can use the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Loan Simulator to calculate your monthly payment under the SAVE Plan and other IDR plans. Please note that the Loan Simulator’s loan forgiveness estimates are typically incorrect because they don’t account for the payment count adjustment.

Action Plan:

More Information:

6. Have Parent PLUS Loans? Find Out if You Can Use the Double Consolidation Loophole to Access SAVE

Parent PLUS loans aren’t eligible for the new more affordable SAVE plan or any other IDR plan. However, after they are consolidated, Parent PLUS Loans become eligible for the Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) plan. Additionally, if you have at least one Parent PLUS Loan and one other federal loan (of any type, including another Parent PLUS Loan), you can use a “double consolidation loophole” to access the SAVE plan, which is often less expensive than ICR.  You must complete all the necessary consolidations by July 1, 2025 to access SAVE.  Before attempting to use the loophole, please use this chart to estimate your SAVE payments

To learn more about how to use the loophole, you can follow our detailed instructions.  

If you need help using the loophole or can’t use the loophole due to previously consolidating all your Parent PLUS loans into a single Direct Consolidation Loan, please file a Student Loan Help Request with our Office. 

7. Work for the Government or a Nonprofit? Learn About PSLF & How to Get Closer to Receiving It

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you’ve made 120 monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan, while working at least 30 hours per week for the government or certain types of nonprofit employers. The payments do not need to be consecutive.

To help public service workers get closer to receiving forgiveness, the U.S. Dept. of Education will be giving borrowers credit toward PSLF for past repayment periods and certain deferments and forbearances that would not otherwise count toward forgiveness. Through this payment count adjustment, some public service workers will receive loan forgiveness while others will get closer to receiving forgiveness. To benefit, you need to do three things:

  • Consolidate any non-Direct Loans (e.g., FFELs or Perkins Loans) into the Direct Loan Program by June 30, 2024. If you fail to do so, you will lose your opportunity to get credit for the payments you made on those loans.
  • Consider whether consolidating can speed up forgiveness on your more recent loans. Even if you already have one or more Direct Loans, forgiveness will come faster on your more recent loans if you consolidate them with your older loans, provided that you worked for a qualifying employer between taking out your older and your more recent loans. For example, if you worked at least 30 hours per week for a qualifying employer between undergraduate and graduate studies, you may benefit from consolidating all your loans together.
  • File PSLF Forms to certify your employment. The U.S. Dept. of Education can’t give you credit for your public service if it doesn’t know about it! If you don’t have approved employment certifications on file for all your past qualifying employment periods since the Oct. 1, 2007 start date of the PSLF Program, file a PSLF Form to certify your employment. 

The U.S. Dept. of Education is changing how the PSLF Program is serviced. Servicing of the PSLF Program will be through the Federal Student Aid (FSA) Office and studentaid.gov rather than the previously designated servicer, MOHELA. While the transition is in progress between May – July 2024, processing of employment certifications is paused. However, you can still submit PSLF Forms, which will be processed once the pause ends.

To keep earning credit toward PSLF, most public service workers need to enroll in an Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plan, such as SAVE.

Action Plan:

  • Find out if you have Direct Loans by checking your studentaid.gov account or calling the U.S. Dept. of Education at 1-800-433-3243.
  • If you have any non-Direct Loans, apply to consolidate them, so they are eligible for PSLF.
  • Fill out employment certifications for all qualifying employment since Oct. 1, 2007.
  • Enroll in an IDR plan, such as SAVE to continue earning credit toward forgiveness. The ICR and PAYE plans are being phased out for many loan types in July, so if you intend to repay in one of those plans, apply now. 

More Information:

8. Still Not Sure If You Need to Consolidate by June 30, 2024? Here are Warning Signs

Non-Direct Loans (e.g., FFELs and Perkins Loans) need to be consolidated into the Direct Loan Program to access lower payments and debt relief programs. 

  • You almost certainly have FFELs if your federal loans are still serviced by Navient or AES. 
    • While other companies also service privately owned FFELs, nearly all the federal loans serviced by Navient and AES are privately owned FFELs.
  • You can only have FFELs if you took out your federal loans before 2011—but even so, you could still have Direct Loans.
  • You could have a Perkins Loan if you have federal loans serviced by ECSI Heartland or your school (though other servicers may also service Perkins Loans).
    • However, if you work as a teacher or in certain public service professions, you may want to pursue Perkins Loan Cancellation, which you cannot do after consolidating a Perkins Loan.

9. Are Your Loans in Default? Enroll in Fresh Start

Fresh Start is a free temporary program you can use to get your federal loans out of default and remove any record of the default from your credit report. But you need to act!

  • Online—Go to myeddebt.ed.gov and log in or create an account. This is the easiest option if you know your login.
  • Phone—Call 1-800-621-3115

You must enroll in Fresh Start by Sept. 30, 2024.

If you need help enrolling in Fresh Start, please file a Student Loan Help Request with the Ombudsman’s Student Loan Assistance Unit.

After your loans are taken out of default and assigned to a federal loan servicer (e.g., Nelnet), you can enroll in an IDR plan, like SAVE.

More Information: 

Learn more about Fresh Start on the U.S. Dept. of Education’s website.

10. File a Complaint with the Ombudsman's Student Loan Assistance Unit

If you live in Massachusetts and have a complaint against a student loan servicer, you can file a Student Loan Help Request with the Ombudsman’s Student Loan Assistance Unit. Please describe your complaint in as much detail as possible.

If you don’t live in Massachusetts, you can’t file a complaint with our Office. Instead, you can contact other state and federal agencies for help.

Student Loan Help Request forms are reviewed in the order in which they are received. It is important that you continue to meet any deadlines while you are waiting to hear from us. If your request would be better handled by a different government agency, we will refer you to that agency.

The Attorney General's Office cannot provide legal advice or act as your attorney. If you have questions concerning the specific application or interpretation of the law, please consult with a private attorney.

While waiting to hear from us, we encourage you to collect information about your federal student loans by creating an account on the U.S. Dept. of Education’s website at studentaid.gov. Once logged in to your account, you will see a full list of your federal student loans, along with servicer contact information, loan types, interest rates, principal and interest balances, and other information that will help clarify your repayment options and the steps needed to access debt relief. Private student loans are not tracked by the U.S. Dept. of Education but may be listed on your credit report. You can obtain a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies.

Additional Resources

11. Avoid Scams

Student loan “debt relief” companies charge fees for helping student loan borrowers access federal loan debt relief programs. There is nothing these companies can do for you that you can’t do on your own for free! If anyone contacts you asking for your personal information (like your FSA ID and password), your bank account information, or money to help you access debt relief—they’re trying to scam you. Visit the U.S. Dept. of Education’s website to learn more about the warning signs of a debt relief scam.

U.S. Dept. of Education Resources

Additional Resources

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