For the majority of students, college loans are part of the reality of higher education. Two-thirds of bachelor's degree students who graduated in 2007-08 left college with debt from school loans, and their average student loan debt load was ,186, according to FinAid.org.
Keeping track of student loan data has taken on added significance as college students have progressively taken on more debt, often from multiple lenders and sources, to help pay for college.
To help serve students and families in managing their college loan debt, the U.S. Department of Education provides the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS), a one-stop source that can tell you, at a glance, how many federal education loans you currently have outstanding, how much you owe on each one, and the servicer responsible for managing each loan ().
The NSLDS does more than keep track of individual student loans (). It's a massive database that assists the Department of Education, colleges and universities, and student borrowers in managing all facets of the federal student financial aid process.
Student borrowing data is collected from financial aid offices, guaranty agencies, education loan servicers, and federal agencies that dispense student loans, educational grants and scholarships (), and other special college funding opportunities. This data is then used to help track everything from new financial aid requests to active school loans and borrowers' loan repayment progress.
As a current or former student, you can use the NSLDS to monitor individual balances, interest rates, and repayment details for each one of your Title IV federal college loans. If your parents took out a federal PLUS parent loan to help you pay for school, they can also use the NSLDS to track their PLUS loans. Borrowers' accounts are tracked independently, however, so parent borrowers won't be able to access information on their children's college loans and vice versa.
You and your parents can also use the NSLDS to work with the Department of Education on any loans that were made to you by a now-defunct servicer or shuttered school or that have entered into default.
Currently, the NSLDS provides information only on education loans and grants authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act () -- such as Stafford loans, Perkins loans, PLUS loans, Pell grants, and SMART grants -- but excludes work-study funds. Nursing and medical school loans are issued under Title VII of the Public Health Service Act and are not reported to the NSLDS.
NSLDS also doesn't track non-federal private student loans (), which are made by banks, credit unions, and other private-sector lenders under private-label programs. Until a centralized database of private student loans becomes available, you'll still need to track any private loans you have individually with each lender or servicer.
The NSLDS web site is available 24 hours a day at nslds.ed.gov, and you can access your federal loan and grant information using your Social Security number and a PIN code.
Grant information is updated daily. New loans are reported to the NSLDS within 30 days after you've received the funds. Your reported outstanding loan balances, on the other hand, may lag current information by as much as 120 days. You can contact your loan servicer or refer to your monthly loan statement to get the most up-to-date information on your federal student loan payments and balances.
In addition to making your federal loan information available to you, the NSLDS website can also provide information about your current existing federal financial aid options, as well as student-borrower exit counseling, which is required by federal law for students who are graduating or leaving school with debt from federal college loans.
The NSLDS itself is simply a repository of data and doesn't offer you an option to change, update, or correct the information it receives from colleges and universities, guarantors, servicers, or other agencies of the federal government that participate in the database. If you find that some of your account information is inaccurate within the NSLDS, you'll need to work with the organization or agency that submitted the information to the database in order to get that information corrected.