What to Know About Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program Loans

Loan Repayment5 mins

Many student loan relief measures—such as the income-driven repayment (IDR) account adjustment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)—have specific exceptions or requirements for FFEL Program loans. But what are FFEL Program loans, and what should you do if you have one? This article will help you understand your options.

What is a FFEL Program loan?

Through the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) worked with private lenders to provide student loans guaranteed (backed) by the federal government. The FFEL Program included

  • Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans,
  • Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans,
  • Federal PLUS Loans (also known as FFEL PLUS Loans), and
  • Federal Consolidation Loans (also known as FFEL Consolidation Loans).

The FFEL Program ended July 1, 2010. But you may still have a FFEL Program loan if you were attending school before that date.

Some FFEL Program loans are held by ED, but most are held by a guaranty agency or a commercial lender. And if your loan isn’t held by ED, you won’t be able to qualify for some federal student loan relief programs unless you consolidate into a Direct Consolidation Loan.

How do I know if I have a FFEL Program loan?

To find out if you have a FFEL Program loan, log in to your StudentAid.gov account using the link below. Under the “Loan Breakdown” section, select “View Loans” to see the list of loans you’ve received. If a loan has “FFEL” at the front of its listing, it’s a FFEL Program loan.

How do I know if my FFEL Program loan is held by ED or not?

Log in and view the “My Loan Servicers” section of your dashboard. If the servicer name starts with “ED,” your loan is held by ED.

What does the one-time IDR account adjustment mean for my FFEL Program loan?

The IDR account adjustment is a relief measure that will count payments that wouldn’t normally be counted toward IDR forgiveness. For example, the adjustment will allow you to count any months you spent in repayment, no matter your loan type or repayment plan. It will also allow you to count certain months spent in forbearance or deferment.

For many borrowers, this adjustment will help them get closer to (or even achieve) IDR forgiveness. It can also help borrowers who are aiming for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).

But if you have a FFEL Program loan that’s not held by ED, you have to apply to consolidate your loan into a Direct Consolidation Loan before the one-time account adjustment.

Normally when you consolidate, the payments you made before consolidating won’t count toward your IDR forgiveness. But if you apply to consolidate before the IDR account adjustment occurs, all time spent in repayment before you consolidate will count. Just keep in mind, these payments won’t show up on your account until the adjustment officially occurs.

Learn more about the one-time IDR account adjustment.

How can I qualify for PSLF if I have a FFEL Program loan?

For your FFEL Program loans to qualify for PSLF, you will need to consolidate your FFEL Program loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan. Only Direct Loans are eligible for PSLF.

Normally, when you consolidate, you don’t get credit toward PSLF for the payments you made before you consolidated. But with the one-time account adjustment, you may get PSLF credit for those earlier payments if you consolidate into the Direct Loan program and meet other PSLF requirements. Keep in mind, this PSLF credit won’t show up on your account until the adjustment officially occurs.

How can I access IDR plans if I have a FFEL Program loan?

Most FFEL Program loans are eligible for only one income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. But you can get more IDR options if you consolidate your FFEL Program loan into a Direct Consolidation Loan. IDR plans base your loan payments on your income and family size, and these plans often provide lower monthly payments.

Note: If you consolidate a FFEL PLUS loan made to parents, the only IDR plan you’ll become eligible for is the Income-Contingent Repayment Plan.

Should I consolidate my FFEL Program loan?

That depends on your specific loan situation and whether the benefits would outweigh the other effects of consolidation. For example, consolidation changes your interest rate, so you might end up paying more in interest later. Learn more about the pros and cons of consolidation.

Make sure you understand how loan consolidation would affect your loans. Your servicer can provide you with information about how your loan balance, interest rate, and total amount to be paid would change if you consolidate.

If you’re ready to apply to consolidate, select the link below to start the Direct Consolidation Loan Application.