Learn How Long Student Loans Appear on Credit Reports

Credit Score Report History
  • Federal law controls the behavior of credit bureaus.
  • Federal student loans can be reported indefinitely.
  • Private student loans follow conventional rules for delinquent debt.

Learn When Delinquent Student Loans Will Disappear From Your Credit Report

Current and delinquent student loans appear on borrowers’ credit reports. How long a delinquent student loan will appear on a credit report depends on whether the loan is private or federal. Federal law controls how long a derogatory, the term used to describe a negative mark, can appear on a credit report. Let us start by reviewing the rules for credit reports.

Credit Report Rules

Federal law (US Code Title 15, §1681c) controls the behavior of credit reporting agencies (CRAs). The specific law is called the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Under FCRA §605 (a) and (b), an account in collection will appear on a consumer’s credit report for up to 7½ years. To determine when an account will be removed by the CRAs (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian and others), add 7 years to the date of first delinquency. The date of first delinquency is shown in credit reports. Subsequent activity, such as resolving the debt or one debt collector selling the debt to another collector, is irrelevant to the 7-year rule.

Some debts have a reporting period longer than 7 years, including:

  • Tax liens: 10 years if unpaid, or 7 years from the payment date
  • Bankruptcy: 10 years from the date of filing (15 U.S.C. §1681c)
  • Perkins student loans: Until paid in full (20 U.S.C. §1087cc(c)(3))
  • Direct and FFEL loans: 7 years from default or rehabilitation date (20 U.S.C. §1080a(f)(1) and 20 U.S.C. §1087e(a)(1))
  • Judgments: 7 years or the debtor’s state statute of limitations on judgments, whichever is longer

The FCRA 7-year rule is separate from state statutes of limitations for debt issues. Learn the lifespan of a judgment in your state at the Bills.com Statute of Limitations Laws by State page.

The start of the 7-year clock begins at the date of first delinquency, or if no payments are made, when the first payment was due. Review your credit report carefully to make certain the dates of first delinquency are reported correctly. Unscrupulous collection agents reset the date of first delinquency to stretch out how long a derogatory account appears on consumer’s credit report. This is illegal under the FCRA.

Just because a debt does not appear on a credit report does not mean the statute of limitations for the debt has passed. The opposite is also true: The passing of a state statute of limitations on a debt does not mean the debt may not appear on a credit report. The federal FCRA and state statutes of limitations are separate and independent of each other.

Whether a debt appears on a credit report does not establish legal liability for the debt. The opposite is also true: You may have legal liability for a debt not reported to the credit reporting agencies. Credit reports are not legal records of every debt a person owes.

Tip Get a no-cost, no obligation analysis of your debt options from a pre-screened debt relief provider.

Private Student Loans & Credit Reports

Private student loans are treated no differently from other private debt. As mentioned above, the 7½-year rule applies to private student loan debt.

If you have a derogatory relating to a student loan, review your credit reports to verify accuracy of the date of last payment and date of default. Do this for reports generated by three reports credit reporting agencies. You can obtain a free copy of your credit report from each credit bureau once every 12 months by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also purchase a copy of your credit report from the credit reporting agencies if you would like to review your report more often.

Wise Advice Check the Dept. of Education’s National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) to see if the loan is federal. State statutes of limitations do not apply to federal loans, and are subject to collection indefinitely. Student loans not backed by federal grants or guarantees do not appear in the NSLDS, and are therefore private. Private student loans are subject to state statutes of limitations.

A private student loan falling off a credit report will not cancel the debt or make it uncollectable. Also, the date a debt falls off a credit report has no relationship to a state’s statute of limitations. See the Bills.com resource Private Student Loan Settlement to learn strategies for resolving private student loans.

Federal Student Loan Rehabilitation & Credit Reports

More About Student Loans
Need a Student Loan? Start Here!
Student Loan Consolidation
Private Student Loan Default
Federal Student Loan Default
Income Based Repayment
Settle a Private Student Loan
Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Delinquent federal student loans can be reported indefinitely, i.e., for as long as they are delinquent. For federal student loans, the Dept. of Education will continue its collection efforts until the loan is paid. If your student loan is federal, consider rehabilitating your loan, which should allow you to resume payments on the loan and have the default removed from your credit report. The Dept. of Education may also offer other options to help you repay your loan at a rate you can afford. Contact the Dept. of Education’s collections office to discuss the repayment options available to you.

If you fail to resolve your student loan obligations, the Dept. of Education may garnish your wages, levy your bank or credit union accounts, or place a lien on your property. If you cannot afford to make payments, or do not wish to do so, consult with an attorney in your state to discuss the risks associated with your unpaid student loan.

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Comments (48)

Tim P.
Center, PA  |  April 15, 2014
I have unpaid school loans that are in default from 2005 totaling $35,000 on my credit report. I don't have many other derogatory marks on credit report, my school loan takes up 96% of my debt. I read that after 7 yrs it must be removed from my credit report. I am looking into possibly starting a computer store but I need a loan. With my current credit score it won't do it. Should I hirer a credit repair service? Would that increase my credit score a little? Thank you,
April 16, 2014
Tim, how long the loans will remain on your credit report depend on the type of loans you have. For example:
  1. If they are Perkins federal student loans, they will stay on the report until they're paid in full.
  2. Federal Direct and FFEL loans will remain for 7 years from the default or rehabilitation date.
  3. Private student loans will remain until 7 years from the date of first default.

I don't recommend hiring a credit repair company to remove legitimate derogatory information.

Jim J.
Portland, OR  |  April 03, 2014
I graduated in 1995 with $25K in student loans. I consolidated probably 15 years with Direct Loans, William D. Ford. Since that time I had alot of financial problems (real estate-recession). The loan is currently in default and has been transferred to Premiere Credit of North America, who appears to have given up as I haven't heard from them in a while. I also have multiple entries for the same loan. The earliest shows a June 2008 date of delinquency. Will this fall off my report as it is in default, despite the balance owed after 7 yeas? Is there a way, other than contacting them, to figure out when it went into default? If I challenge the two, will I "wake up" the collection efforts? Will they take off the correct account? I'm back to work and starting to make some money, but my balance is now $65K or so, and its going to be a tough uphill battle to pay it off.
April 03, 2014
Because you mentioned "Direct Loans" I will assume the loans are federal. If they are federal they are not subject to state statutes of limitations, and will stay on your credit report as long as they are delinquent. If the loans are federal, contact the present loan servicer and negotiate a payment plan.

If your student loans are private, then they are subject to your state's statute of limitations. If the loans are private, you have every incentive to lie low, cross your fingers, and hope the collection agent doesn't notice when your state statute of limitations will pass.

If you do not have reliable records yourself indicating your last payment, then your only option is to contact the lender or its collection agent. Don't contact the collection agent if the loan is private.
Jim J.
Portland, OR  |  April 03, 2014
Can I check a public database that has information that would not trigger the Dept of Education or the collection agent? As it is with the collection agent, does it then become private and subject to the statute? Is there a place to check this?
April 03, 2014
See above for the link to the Dept. of Education's National Student Loan Data System. If your loan appears in this database, it's definitely a federal loan. If it doesn't, it is probably a private loan.

I am unaware of any instance where the Dept. of Education converted a federal loan to a private loan for collection purposes. Congress gave the Dept. of Education the authority to garnish wages administratively in all states, and the authority to offset tax returns. These are two mechanisms private student lenders do not have.

The Dept. of Education does hire collection agents to help it collect federal student loans. Here is a list of collection agents hired by the Dept. of Education.
Bill M.
Coral Gables, FL  |  April 01, 2014
I have several loans with AES. They are now current, but there was a period of 60 days when there was not a renewal of forebearance. Is there any way to have this 60 day late removed from credit report. They did place a retroactive economic hardship forebearance begining prior to the late time period, their statement is that brought the account current, but does not affect the fact that 60 days passed without forebeance or payments made. Thank you
April 01, 2014
It appears the derogatory information on your credit reports is accurate, but not convenient. If the information was inaccurate, then you could file a dispute. If you do so for accurate information, the account would be marked as "disputed" during the time the consumer credit reporting agencies investigate your dispute. Eventually, AES will confirm the accuracy of the information, which will bring you back to where you are today.
Dallas, TX  |  March 13, 2014
I opened an AES Consolidation Federal School loan that since has gone to default. I pulled my Trans Union credit report to see what how far away from most mistakes that I made while I was young dropping off my credit report. It has the AES Federal School loan TRANSFERRED TO RECOVERY; CLAIM FILED WITH GOVERNMENT, estimated month and year that this item will be removed: 08/2017. I was confused because everywhere I read, they state that a Federal Loan will essentially never drop off. Since the deliquencly of this loan, it has been transferred to a collection agency which it shows it set to be removed 09/2017. Another concern I have is I have it set to pay a minimal payment to the collection agency, I know that after a couple of years I haven't even made a dent into it. Should I continue these payments or would it be best to just draw a line in the sand and wait out my period comes in mid 2017? I feel like continuation of these payments will only forego my waiting period and really never pay the loan off. I've also heard of loan foregiveness programs perhaps being available, but would it be too late for that since it is now in a collection agency? Also, would paying it off completely (which I won't be able to do for at least a few years), reset my 7 years? Thank you so much.
March 28, 2014
Reread the original article above. As you can see, different rules seem to apply to different types of federal student loans. It is not clear the consumer credit reporting agencies follow these rules consistently.

A student loan appearing or not appearing on your credit report does not indicate your liability for the debt. In other words, let's say Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion screw-up and drop one of your delinquent loans from your credit reports. Even though the loan does not exist in the databases at these three consumer credit reporting agencies, that does not mean the debt is cancelled, not collectible, or forgiven.

Our advice? Consider one of the federal student loan payment plans.
Dee B.
Shreveport, LA  |  March 03, 2014
I recently checked my credit report and a student loan from 2006 is listed under satisfactory accounts with PDI in remarks. I am wondering if this would improve my score if include it in consolidation with my recent student loans? Thanks, Dee
March 10, 2014
Consolidating a current student loan will not improve your credit score or credit profile in any way I can imagine.

That is not to say you should not consolidate student loans. Consolidate student loans when doing so will save you money, or otherwise make your monthly payments more affordable.
John S.
Seattle, WA  |  February 21, 2014
From my understanding it is negative. It is also only being reported for $1 and open when in fact I paid this loan in full. My school uses Campus Partners for their loan management and claim they sent in a correction on Feb 7th but my reports have not updated. How long should I wait before taking action? I keep receiving different information on when this should be purged, again when this is corrected as paid in full but negative will it come off 7 years from that date of first default?
February 27, 2014
The Fair Credit Reporting Act is unclear on this issue. We have seen the consumer credit reporting agencies take up to three months to correct credit reports. If the notation on this account isn't updated after 30 days, then file a dispute with each of the credit bureaus reporting the old, incorrect information.
Nichole N.
Portland, OR  |  February 18, 2014
I had a student loan that went to two collections agencies about ten years ago. After they were not able to collect, the balance was transfered back to the university. I contacted the school recently to get things straightened out and they told me that the account was written off and purged in 2009 (5 years ago). I was told I am no longer getting late fees, and they were not collecting on it. This last week I got my tax returns and it all went to that university as a payment on my debt. Though responsibly, I should handle this debt as it is mine.. my question is, how can my return money go to an account that was written off 5 years ago?
February 18, 2014
Write-off (and charge-off, which means the same thing) is one of the most misleading accounting terms consumers see. Write-off is when a creditor moves a customer's account from its current accounts ledger to the bad-debt line on its general ledger. Customer service representatives usually can't access an account that's been moved to bad debt, and will say something like, "It's been written off so I can't do anything about it" which leads the consumer to believe the debt is forgiven, cancelled, or otherwise no longer collectible. But that's not true — written-off debts are subject to collections.

What to do? Call your university and talk to someone other than the front-line customer service reps about this matter. Some department at your university is offsetting your tax returns, and you need to find someone in that department to resolve your debt.
Nunya B.
Laurel, MD  |  February 18, 2014
Actually the institution has nothing to do with it all. You need to contact the Dept of Education 1-800-621-3115 and they will search the national database to see if your loans are still in collections. They will identify what collection agency currently holds your loan then what you should do is ask them to provide proof that you owe this money. I would use a credit fix type of agency to do this if it was me because Im lazy lol but you can also do it yourself. If you decide to use an outside company then they will write a letter on your behalf asking them to provide proof that you owe this money. If they do not respond within 90 days with proof it has to be removed from your credit report permanently.
John S.
Seattle, WA  |  February 07, 2014
I had a Perkins loan default. The date of first default is Sept 2006. When I became aware of the loan again in Nov 2013 I pulled my credit report and the loan was not on the report. I completed payment of the loan in Jan 2014 and was shocked to see the loan was reported when I pulled my credit report in Feb 2014. From my understanding a Perkins loan is reported till it is paid in full and will be purged 7 years after the first date of default. So I guess my question is will this just purge off next month or do I need to call the credit bureaus and contest this?
February 10, 2014
It is our understanding that 20 U.S. Code § 1087 (c)(c) applies to Perkins and other federal student loans. Under this code, the loan is reported to the consumer reporting agencies until paid.

After that point, we find conflicting information. Some say the loan's positive outcome — payment in full — will remain on the consumer's credit report indefinitely, like any other positive account. Others say the information will be purged. Is your Perkins account status positive? If so, then its appearance boosts your credit score. If it's a negative, then dispute it.
Joshua B.
New Bedford, MA  |  April 12, 2014
I am very confused about this as well. My Experian shows a defaulted, but paid Perkins loan as positive as of 03/14. Equifax still shows the same information as negative, and TransUnion deleted. Does the 7 year rule on a paid Perkins loan apply to the Date of first delinquency or to the date the payment was made? I am going to dispute with Equifax but I would like to be sure on the 7 year law on Perkins loans.
April 18, 2014
We are researching this for clarification, and will share what we learn.
Calandra C.
Saint Michaels, AZ  |  February 21, 2013
I defaulted on my student loans in 2010. I came out of default and was on a 10-month forbearance. Now I have re-established my consolidated loan with monthly payments. On my credit report, the defaults are evident and shows removal in 2017. Since I am repaying my loans and out of default, can I write to the lenders to request removal? Is it possible? I can't wait 7 years because I want to raise my credit score to qualify for a home loan.
February 21, 2013
What you ask about is called a pay for delete in the credit report world. Follow the link just mentioned to learn more.
Ashley A.
Dickinson, TX  |  April 01, 2012
I have a private student loan which defaulted in July of 2007. I would like to pay off this debt, but I have read that once you make one payment the 7 1/2 year clock starts over, and the time that the loan was derogatory will show for another 7 1/2 years. Is this true, or can I make a payment lets say, tomorrow, and it will only show my derogatory items on my loan until 2014? Or if I make a payment tomorrow will my derogatory items stay until almost 2019? I have been hesitant to pay off this debt because of that reason, I would just like my credit report to be free and clear of derogatory items.
April 02, 2012
The 7½-year rule you referred is found in the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The clock starts on the 7½-year rule at the date of first delinquency. It does not restart when a person makes a payment. Let us say for the sake of argument a debt becomes delinquent January 1, 2000. The person makes payments, and the debt is paid in full in 2004. The derogatory will remain on the credit report until July 1, 2007.

The rule you referred to concerns state statutes of limitations for contracts, which have no relationship to the federal 7½-year rule.
Tania B.
Corpus Christi, TX  |  April 24, 2012
I had me loans paid via consolidation; the account status on my credit report is paid, closed or transferred. Is that a negative status or is it he payment history a negative status? On the payment history is states 180 days past due. Will it do any good to contact the original creditor and dispute the payment history or can I dispute that with the credit bureau?
April 24, 2012
If the account was never 180 days past due, then you should definitely dispute a notation that says it was. If the notation is accurate, then it can remain on the report for 7½ years from the time you went delinquent.

Paying the loans off, bringing them to a $0 balance, is a step that both insulates you from collection efforts and improves your score.
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