Find out how to resolve a dispute related to your federal student loan.

Learn what steps you can take to resolve your dispute.

Common Loan Disputes

Do you have a dispute regarding your loan? Review the different situations below.

You can’t avoid repaying your student loans because you didn’t know you had to repay them or because billing statements from your loan holder were delayed. When you signed your promissory note, you promised to repay the debt and to keep your loan holder up to date with your current address.

Find out what to do about loan disputes related to these topics:
Account Balance
Loan Discharge
          False Certification Due to Identity Theft
Treasury Offset (withholding of federal tax refund)
          Treasury Offset of Joint Tax Refunds
Wage Garnishment

Account Balance

There are a number of reasons why the total amount you owe on your federal student loan might be higher than you expect it to be when you compare the current amount you owe with the original amount you borrowed. Here are some of the reasons the total amount you owe on a loan may have increased:

  • Unpaid interest may have been capitalized at the end of a period of deferment or forbearance or under certain other circumstances (capitalization is the addition of unpaid interest to the principal balance of a loan).
  • If you defaulted on your loan and the loan was referred to a private collection agency, collection costs may have been added to the total amount you owe.
  • If you have been repaying your loan under an income-driven repayment plan and your calculated monthly payment amount has been less than the monthly accrued interest, the total amount you owe may have increased due to unpaid interest.

Now that you know some of the reasons why the total amount you owe may have increased, if you still believe

  • that the balance on your federal student loan is higher than it should be,
  • that you haven't received credit for payments that you made, or
  • that your loan was previously paid in full or discharged, then

you must send proof that supports your claim to the holder of your loan. Your loan holder might request items such as copies of canceled checks or other proof of payment. You should contact the holder of your loan with any questions. If you don’t know who your loan holder is, you can find out by logging in to “My Federal Student Aid.”


If you believe that your loan was incorrectly placed in default, you should first consider whether you have met all of your responsibilities as a borrower. One of your responsibilities is to notify your loan holder of any change in your contact information (mailing address, email address, telephone number, etc.). If you change your address without telling your loan holder, you’re still responsible for making your monthly loan payments on time, even if billing statements are being sent to your prior address. 

You're also responsible for making each of your monthly loan payments for the full amount due. If you pay less than the full amount due, this can lead to delinquency and default. If you're having trouble making your monthly loan payments, it's your responsibility to contact your loan holder to discuss options for avoiding delinquency and default; you might consider deferment, forbearance, or changing repayment plans. 

If you believe that you've met all of your responsibilities as a borrower and that your loan was placed in default in error, you must contact your loan holder and provide evidence that your loan should not be in default status. If you don’t know who your loan holder is, you can find out by logging in to “My Federal Student Aid.”

Loan Discharge

If your application for loan discharge based on a condition such as closed school, false certification, forgery, total and permanent disability, or unpaid refund was denied, but you believe you qualify for the discharge and want to request a reconsideration of your application, contact the party identified in the denial letter that you received. You may be required to provide additional documentation to support your eligibility for discharge. 

Note: If you have already requested a reconsideration of your application but have not yet received a response from your loan holder within 90–120 days, you should contact your loan holder directly.

False Certification Due to Identity Theft

If you are claiming false certification due to identity theft, you will need to provide

  • a court judgment that conclusively finds that you were a victim of identity theft and identifies the name(s) of the individual(s) who committed the crime; and
  • a clear copy of a valid government-issued photo identification card (e.g., driver’s license, state-issued ID card, or passport) or a clear copy of your Social Security card. 

Additionally, you will need to include a written statement that describes how the identity theft relates specifically to your student loan(s) and indicating that you

  • certify under penalty of perjury that your enclosed written statement and all supporting documents provided are true and correct to the best of your knowledge;
  • agree to cooperate with officials of the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Department of Justice in the investigation of the facts and circumstances relating to the student loan obtained in your name;
  • agree to testify in any administrative proceeding or criminal or civil court case relating to this matter; and
  • understand that providing this statement and agreeing to cooperate and provide testimony does not release you from your obligation to repay the loan obtained in your name. 

Until ED notifies you in writing that the investigation has been concluded, and unless you choose to make payments on the loan, the loan will be placed in forbearance. Although you won’t have to make payments while the loan is in forbearance, interest will continue to accrue.

Please complete, sign, and date your statement to certify that you agree to cooperate with ED and the U.S. Department of Justice in the investigation of your allegation of identity theft. 

Note: Your written statement must be notarized.

Please return your completed written statement and attachments to the following address: 
U.S. Department of Education
P.O. Box 5609 
Greenville, TX 75403-5609

Treasury Offset

The U.S. Department of the Treasury, at the request of the U.S. Department of Education, can withhold money from your federal income tax refunds, Social Security payments, and other federal payments to collect your defaulted federal student loan. This withholding is called Treasury offset.

If you have been notified of pending Treasury offset and disagree with the offset, you have the right to request a review. Find out how to request a review.

Treasury Offset of Joint Tax Refunds

If you filed a federal income tax return jointly with your spouse, the entire refund from that return, including the part that came from withholdings on earnings of your spouse, is subject to offset, even though your spouse is not liable for the defaulted loan. Your spouse (referred to in this situation as the “injured spouse”) may reclaim his or her portion of the refund from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by filing an injured spouse claim form (IRS form 8379). You may also request this form from the IRS by calling 1-800-829-1040. Only the IRS will be able to answer questions about whether your spouse qualifies for an injured spouse refund and how much he or she may receive.

Wage Garnishment

Your loan holder—the U.S. Department of Education or the guaranty agency—can order your employer to withhold up to 15 percent of your disposable pay to collect your defaulted debt without taking you to court.

If you have been notified of proposed garnishment of your wages and want to dispute the proposed garnishment, you have the right to request a hearing. Find out how to request a hearing.