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Published: Nov 19, 2021 14 min read
Students on university campus

If you’re a federal student loan borrower, you may have grown used to not making payments over the past nearly two years. But the pandemic relief program that froze federal student loan payments and interest is coming to an end in less than 90 days. You'll be on the hook for payments again staring in February.

And that's official — while there have been four previous extensions of the forbearance period, the Education Department says that won't happen again. In other words, you will need to start repaying your loans, regardless of what happens with the pandemic or the economy.

If that has you panicking, you’re not alone. A Credit Karma study published in October found that 63% of those with outstanding student loan debt are concerned about their ability to make payments once federal student loan forbearance ends. Another recent survey from Savi and Student Debt Crisis Center found as many as 9 out of 10 borrowers weren't ready to resume payments.

But there’s plenty you can do now to help you ease back into paying your debt, including potentially lowering your future monthly payments. Here's where to start.

Know what your student loan balance is

You can log on to your student loan servicer's website to see what you currently owe. If you don't know which company manages your student loan billing (aka your servicer), you can find that out, along with your balance, by logging on to If you just graduated and are entering repayment, check your email or physical mail for instructions on setting up an account.

But heads up. Your student loan servicer may change within the next year. Multiple servicers are leaving the business. Navient, for example, says it will transfer all its accounts to other companies before the end of the year.

“Read every piece of mail and every email that you get,” Stacey MacPhetres, senior director of education finance at Bright Horizons’ EdAssist Solutions, says. “I think we are all guilty of thinking, ‘Oh, that's a solicitation or I don't need that.’ But there's a lot of change happening.”

The good news is a lot will also stay the same. If you made no payments on your federal student loans during the forbearance period, your balance should be the same as it was when the Trump Administration put the payment pause into place back in March 2020.

Your loan terms, interest rates and any existing benefits will remain the same, too. The number you call to ask questions about your loans shouldn't change and neither should your online log-in credentials.