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1.9 Determining What Type of Loan a Client Has

The most efficient way to find out about a client’s government loan is by viewing the borrower’s National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) report. The NSLDS is the Department of Education’s central database for student aid. It receives data from schools, agencies that guarantee loans, the Direct Loan Program, the Federal Pell Grant Program, and other United States Department of Education programs. This information can be obtained online at studentaid.gov.

In March 2020, the Department removed the NSLDS website, which displayed information on loan and/or grant amounts, outstanding balances, loan status, and disbursements. Much of that information is now displayed on studentaid.gov. However, not all the information in the NSLDS report—such as the loan holder—is displayed on that website. Borrowers may use the “Download My Aid Data” link on the studentaid.gov website to download their NSLDS data into a text readable file.310 Borrowers can also call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or 1-800-730-8913 (TDD).

To access student loan and grant information on studentaid.gov, borrowers must use their FSA ID. This is a login username and password that student and parents can create in order to access federal student aid websites. The FSA ID system replaced the personal identification number (PIN) system in May of 2015.311

A July 2015 Electronic Announcement clarifies the requirements for requesting and using an FSA ID for use in the federal student aid programs.312 First, the person creating an FSA ID must be the person identified in the submission who then becomes the owner of the FSA ID. Second, the person using the FSA ID for any purpose must be the FSA ID owner. Finally, the owner of the FSA ID must not share it with any other person or transfer any of his or her rights or responsibilities to another person or entity. Advocates should note that the Department states that it is contrary to the requirements of the process for anyone to use another person’s FSA ID, even in an attempt to provide assistance. This is true regardless of whether the PIN owner has been informed of the activity or even if he or she voluntarily agrees to provide the PIN to the other party.313 Misuse by third parties of FSA IDs, and of PIN privacy in the former system, has been a serious problem, particularly because third-party “debt relief” companies pressured borrowers to provide this information.314

On April 14, 2019, the Department implemented certain enhancements designed to improve the FSA ID process, including the ability for users to log in with a verified mobile phone number as an alternative to a username or verified email address.315

Although the NSLDS report is the most valuable source of information about borrowers’ federal student loans, the CFPB also has useful information about distinguishing federal and private student loans among its online student loan tools.316

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