Student Loans

College students at commencement ceremony

We have 10 fact sheets and resources to help students and parents understand student loans, identify other ways to pay for college, and manage student debt.     

Going to college means going into debt for a majority of American college students and the total amount of student loan debt now exceeds 1 trillion dollars. Students have a choice of Direct Loans from the U.S. Department of Education or other lenders. When making the choice, students should keep in mind that federal loans offer many more options and consumer protections. Interest rates on Direct student loans are fixed for the life of the loan and tied to financial market rates. They are determined each spring for new loans being made for the upcoming award year; i.e., July 1 through the following June 30. Private student loan interest rates are generally not known until a student applies and are calculated based on both a market rate index and the borrower’s and/or cosigner’s credit history. In addition, private student loans usually carry a variable rate that will fluctuate over time, and interest begins accruing upon disbursement of the loan. For information on federal vs. private student loans, see

The eXtension personal finance community has responded to the student loan debt crisis with ten fact sheets to help students and their parents understand student loans both before and after they borrow money.

Student Loan Fact Sheet Series:

eXtension is also pleased to present information from the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) about student loans. FSA’s website for students,, offers a wealth of information from applying to colleges to learning the many plans a borrower can utilize to best repay his or her loans. In addition, directions, tips and definitions are provided for filling out the FAFSA form, assessing loan eligibility, and deciding how financial aid can make college a reality.  

Federal Student Aid’s Financial Aid Toolkit consolidates FSA resources into a searchable online database intended for use by organizations and individuals who interact with, support, or counsel students and families on making financial preparations for postsecondary education. While the toolkit’s target audience is high school counselors and college access professionals, financial aid administrators and anyone who advises students about college may also find toolkit resources useful for their student outreach efforts.
Students are required to complete Entrance and Exit Counseling (enforced by schools). The Financial Awareness Counseling Tool (FACT) can be accessed at any time (no sign-on required). FACT provides students their outstanding federal loan amount and other useful money management information. The link to FSA’s Loan Counseling tools is

Additional information about student loans including infographics and videos can be found in the FSA resources located here:

Federal Student Aid Online Resources is a two-page printable document that summarizes links to all key federal student aid resources. Some of the student aid resources are targeted to counselors, mentors, and others who advise students on financial aid.

Another good resource for students is the College Affordability and Transparency Center which can be found here:
The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 required the U.S. Department of Education to publish net prices, tuition and fees, and annual percentage changes in these values on the College Affordability and Transparency Center website and to highlight the institutions within each sector with the highest and lowest values. It also required all colleges and universities eligible for Title IV federal aid to report average net prices and to create online calculators to enable prospective students and their families to estimate the net price of attendance.


Image credit: Commencement-35 by Mines CERSE; photo credit: Agata Bogucka
Original image was cropped and resized
Available under a Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0