Student Loan and Education Resource List

This concise, five-page guide provides resources to help beginning students figure out what their college education financing options are, what they can afford, which schools are worth the cost and how to get the student loan process started. Current and former students can benefit from the sections on loan repayment and what to do if the loan goes into default. The publication includes resources specifically for veterans.

Student Loan and Education Resource List

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Student Loan and Education Resource List
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Table of Contents

Getting started

Considering college or thinking about continuing your education? We’ve gathered resources for students who need help financing their education and information on what you need to know before you sign for a loan.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) needs to be submitted in order to apply for federal student aid. (There is no fee.) The FAFSA gives you access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for education. In addition, many states and colleges use your FAFSA data to determine your eligibility for state and school aid, and some private financial aid providers may use your FAFSA information to determine whether you qualify for their aid as well.

Understanding the FASFA (available in nine languages) helps families navigate the U.S. Department of Education’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in their quest to get financial aid for college.

The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) is a non-profit that works to increase public understanding of the education borrowing trend and the implications for families, the economy and society. Its website posts many informational articles and studies related to student borrowing and debt.

College InSight provides user-friendly profiles with detailed information for almost 5,000 U.S. colleges and universities. Compare colleges, states and more based on important issues, including affordability, diversity and the school’s student success rates.

The U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Federal Student Aid website has dozens of helpful features, including tools that will help you choose a school and understand the costs involved with college, and articles on what to consider when applying to schools and finding the right career options that match your interests:

Beware of worthless degrees and institutions! The Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs helps would-be students check the status of an accredited school or program (one that is officially recognized by its corresponding accrediting organization).

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is an independent federal regulatory agency that monitors student loans and other financial services for consumer protection issues. Its articles outline the differences between federal school loans and private school loans, and an online tool allows you to compare financial aid offers so you can understand your financial commitments:

The New York Times Student Loan Calculator offers a guide to borrowing to pay for various educational institutions and provides insight on how long it takes after graduation to repay the loans. is the place to find and apply for federal grants. Search federal grants by keywords or more specific criteria. All discretionary grants offered by the 26 federal grant-making agencies can be found on Once you apply for a grant, you will be able to track its processing status on this website.

Resources for veterans

College Factual veteran resources provide quick statistics and rankings for schools and programs, including average tuition costs, graduation rates and average starting salaries:

  • Veterans Majors Matcher. After registering an email address for free, users can conduct a more personalized search based on core strengths, interests and military experience.
  • Top Colleges for Veterans ranks four-year undergraduate programs by key factors veterans are interested in, including GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon benefits and SOC Membership.

Borrowers in repayment

If you have recently graduated or have begun to repay your student loans, you may have options. Federal loan borrowers do not have to accept the payment plan your lender gives you. Private loan borrowers don’t have the same flexibility, but it is important to set clear repayment guidelines with your servicer (the company that prepares your bill each month). Below are resources for federal and private loan borrowers approaching or in repayment, including tips on how to deal with loan servicers, where to get help and how to adjust monthly payments.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) offers articles on repaying your federal student loans, including information on fees, servicers, origination, late payments and returned payments:

  • Student Loan Repayment explains how borrowers repay federal loans.
  • Manage Loans provides all the information you need to help you better manage your loan payments.
  • Get Temporary Relief provides information for borrowers who are looking into temporarily putting off their monthly student loan payments.
  • Who’s My Student Loan Servicer? is ED’s guide on dealing with servicers while managing the repayment of your student loans.
  • Consolidating your federal education loans is for those thinking about consolidating their federal student loans who want to better understand the process.
  • Resolving disputes explains what to do when you and your loan servicer disagree about the balance or status of your loan.
  • Self-Resolution Checklist is useful before you contact the ombudsman (an official appointed to investigate individuals’ complaints against lenders and servicers) to help resolve your student loan issues.
  • Student loan glossary clarifies frequently used terms like default, forbearance and servicing.
  • Loan Simulator helps borrowers see how long it will take to pay off debt by increasing or decreasing monthly payment amounts.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) letter templates for servicers are downloadable sample letters you can mail to your lender or servicer, or you can use the text provided by the CFPB to provide instructions using the “Send a Message” or “Contact Us” feature when you log in to your account on the servicer’s website:

  • Extra payments. Want to pay down your debt faster by making payments greater than your monthly bill? Doing so could allow you to save thousands on accrued interest over the life of your loan. However, you will need to provide explicit instructions to your servicer so the company understands how to apply your additional payment rather than allocating the funds evenly across multiple loans.
  • Alternative repayment plan and loan modification. If you need information on alternative repayment plans and loan modification options, this letter can be sent to your private student loan servicer to request such information. It may help you get a clear answer and avoid long hold times and transfers from one call center representative to another.
  • Co-signer release. If you are a co-signer or you have a co-signed student loan and are in repayment, this letter can help you obtain a “co-signer release” (if offered by your lender), which can protect both the borrower and the co-signer from a default or an acceleration clause.
  • Debt collection. Depending on your situation, there are many different ways to respond appropriately to debt collectors. You can consider using the following sample letters if you’re experiencing any of the common problems that can come up with debt collectors and you need help responding.

ClearPoint Credit Counseling is a 50-year-old Atlanta-based credit education agency that offers borrowers calculators, quizzes, e-books and videos to help them manage their budgets and debt:

The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) Top 10 Student Loan Tips for Recent Graduates in repayment offers helpful tips for borrowers beginning to repay loans.

Your Guide to Income-Driven Repayment Plans for Federal Student Loans gives a thorough overview of IDR repayment plans to help you choose a more affordable repayment option.

Certify your service: Guides to Public Service Loan Forgiveness puts you on the right path if you’ve been working in public service and want to see your federal loan debt discharged after ten years (or 120 on-time payments).

FinAid offers comprehensive and free resources on financing education and managing debt. If you want to consolidate your private student loans, this website can help you get started.

Resources for veterans

The CFPB’s guide for servicemembers with student loans includes helpful tips on repayment and information on how to lower loan interest rates.

FedLoan Servicing outlines benefits for servicemembers in repayment. The site explains repayment options and eligibility requirements for the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).

The VA GI Bill Feedback Tool allows servicemembers to submit complaints regarding their student loans.

Ombudsman programs

Still have questions? These two agencies can help:

The U.S. Department of Education
877-557-2575 / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
Submit your complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Borrowers in default

Defaulting on a federal and/or private student loan has serious consequences. Unlike other consumer credit users, borrowers in default on a student loan might see their tax refund taken and their wages garnished without a court order. In 1977, Congress banned federal student loans from being discharged in bankruptcy, and with the bankruptcy reform in 2005 private student loans were added to the list. However, there are options to get out of default and get the default status removed from your credit reports.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) offers information on default:

  • Understanding Default provides helpful information for borrowers who are behind in their loan payments: The article explains the consequences of being in default and ways to get out of it.
  • ED’s Self-Resolution Checklist should be used before you contact the ombudsman (an official appointed to investigate individuals’ complaints against lenders and servicers) to help resolve your student loan issue.

The National Consumer Law Center resource sheet Should I Consolidate or Rehabilitate My Federal Student Loan? compares consolidation and rehabilitation, highlighting the pros and cons of each.

FinAid resources help explain default and rehabilitation options for your student loans: A New Hope for Student Loan Defaulters provides information on rehabilitating defaulted student loans.

The National Consumer Law Center provides an overview of ways to better manage your defaulted student loan debt, including information on loan consolidation and rehabilitation.

Confused about whether you should consolidate or rehabilitate your loans? Check out NCLC’s guide.

How Seniors Crushed by Old Student Loans Can Get Relief explains the steps seniors can take if the government is garnishing their Social Security to pay student loan debt.

Ombudsman programs

Still have questions? These agencies can help:

The U.S. Department of Education
877-557-2575 / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
Submit your complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

For more information

Consumer Action’s “school loans” tag is where you can catch the latest headlines and consumer alerts regarding school loans and education financing, including policy updates and regulatory news.

Brookings Institution’s report examines what large-balance student loan defaults may mean for taxpayers, and reveals that, more and more, students taking out large loans are attending institutions with poorer loan repayment outcomes and worse labor market outcomes.

CFPB semi-annual reports analyze and discuss trends in consumer complaints received by the CFPB and highlight illegal business practices, including those of the student loan servicing market.

Federal Reserve Board of New York report on household debt and credit compares student debt to other kinds of household debt and identifies debt trends around the country.

Published / Reviewed Date

Reviewed: March 12, 2020

Download File

Student Loan and Education Resource List
File Name: CA_Student_Loan_Guide_2020_EN_v1.1.pdf
File Size: 2.81MB



This guide is a project of Consumer Action’s Managing Money Project for financial literacy.

Filed Under

Credit   ♦   Debt Collection   ♦   Military/Veterans   ♦   Student Loans   ♦  


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