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5 Things to Know About Your Student Loan Report

The federal database known as the NSLDS provides information on student loan balances, issuers and disbursement dates.

A laptop computer with money and a pen.

Your student loan status affects eligibility for future federal financial aid, so make sure your NSLDS report is accurate.  

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Questions related to the status of student loans are some of the most frequent received by the Student Loan Ranger from recent graduates and borrowers who have perhaps "neglected" their federal student loans for a while.

A quick online search will bring you to the National Student Loan Data System, or NSLDS,​ which is the federal government’s central database for all things relating to federal student loans.   

This site will tell you who currently holds your loan, the approximate balance, what school it paid for, when it was originated and the current status. It’s a great place to get the overall picture of your student loan situation. Here are a couple of tips to make using this tool a little easier:

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1. You’ll need your p​ersonal identification number​.  Most student loan borrowers have no idea what their PIN might be. It's the same as the one you used to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. What’s worse is that the log-in page for NSLDS doesn’t give any instructions on what to do if you don't remember your PIN. You can apply for a new PIN, or ask for a hint on your old PIN, here.

2. The available information is not in real time. The NSLDS gets its information from a variety of sources including the school you were attending when you borrowed the loan, the loan holder, the lender and the U.S. Department of Education. These entities don’t do daily reporting and they don’t all report directly to the database, so it can take weeks or even months for information to catch up. The system is best used for performing approximations and locating loans​ rather than looking at account balances and getting status updates.

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3. The disbursement date is important to understand. This is the date that is going to determine a borrower's eligibility for programs such as Pay as You Earn as well as interest rates.

This date is generally the date that the first disbursement of your loan for a particular school year went to the school. It’s not necessarily the date the money was available to you or used to pay your tuition. It’s also the date interest begins accruing for nonsubsidized loans.

For a consolidation loan, it’s the date the funds were sent to pay off the underlying loans. It should match the date the loan holder has on file.

4. Your NSLDS report only shows the loans you are legally responsible for paying. This means any Parent PLUS loans ​taken out on your behalf will reflect on the parent borrower’s report rather than your own.

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5. The NSLDS is what is used to determine your eligibility for future federal financial aid. This means it’s important to make sure all the information is correct. 

The problem is that you almost need a glossary to weed through all the acronyms and status codes in the financial aid world.  Your loans’ status codes, for example, can be very important and can affect future financial aid eligibility, so you’ll want to make sure they are correct. 

Even one letter – such as a status code of DA, or deferred, versus that of DF, or defaulted – can mean the difference between being approved for future aid or being denied. If you need to have a correction made, contact the loan holder first to try and resolve the mistake as they are likely the ones reporting it.

The NSLDS is one of the more underused, but useful, tools out there for managing your federal student aid. Knowing it’s there is half the battle. Understanding how it works is the other half.