NASFAA Advises Returning College Students: Know What You Owe

Keeping Tabs on Your Total Student Debt While in College Can Prevent Surprises, Difficulties in Repayment

Fall semester 2016 is upon us! As students settle in and dot the “i’s” and cross the “t’s” to make sure everything––including their financial aid package––is in order for the new school year, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) reminds returning students it’s important to not only understand their financial aid packages for the 2016-17 school year, but also to make sure they know how much they have borrowed to-date. This will ensure there are no surprises come graduation.

Currently, students are only required to complete two sets of counseling on their federal student loans: entrance counseling when they first enroll and take out a loan, and exit counseling when they graduate or leave their program. The result? Often students get caught up with their studies, don’t check in to see how much they’ve borrowed, and end up with "sticker shock" upon graduation when, during exit counseling, the reality of what they have borrowed and what their payments will be sinks in.

In June 2016, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) introduced the Ensure Responsible Borrowing Act, which would allow institutions to require loan counseling before disbursing a new loan. This counseling would be in addition to existing entrance and exit counseling. If passed, this bill could help students be more cognizant of how much total debt they may be faced with upon graduation.

The Department of Education has also recently taken steps to determine whether additional loan counseling can empower students to make more informed borrowing decisions. In an August 12 press release, the Department said it will be looking for schools to take part in a pilot program, noting that participating schools would be given the authority to require loan counseling beyond the currently required one-time entrance and exit counseling.

In the meantime, NASFAA encourages students to log in frequently to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) to view information about the original amount of their loan or loans, current balance, and interest accrued.

“It’s important that students educate themselves about their borrowing and keep close tabs on the amount of debt they accumulate, as they will ultimately be the ones responsible for paying this back,” said NASFAA President Justin Draeger. “There are multiple repayment options that can help students remain in good standing, no matter their current or future income, but it’s not enough to rely solely on these income-based or income-contingent repayment plans,” he said. “Students must do their due diligence to ensure that they are only borrowing what they absolutely need for their educational expenses and are not taking on unnecessary debt to support lifestyle choices not related to their education.”

Financial aid administrators on college campuses are well versed in the troubles students face with loan debt and as such, are uniquely qualified to offer guidance when it comes to managing debt and repayment. NASFAA members can offer advice on budgeting, determining how much to borrow, and where to find the total amount owed to date.

To request an interview with a NASFAA spokesperson, please email or call (202) 785-6959.

About NASFAA  

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) is a nonprofit membership organization that represents more than 20,000 financial aid professionals at nearly 3,000 colleges, universities, and career schools across the country. NASFAA member institutions serve nine out of every ten undergraduates in the U.S. Based in Washington, DC, NASFAA is the only national association with a primary focus on student aid legislation, regulatory analysis, and training for financial aid administrators. For more information, visit

Publication Date: 8/29/2016

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