How to know if your student loan is in "default"

A federal student loan is in default if you have gone more than 270 days (9 months) without making a required payment. Once a federal loan is in default, a 25% collection fee will be added to the balance and the government may seek to garnish your wages or seize your federal tax refund.

Private student loan default is governed by the loan agreement and may begin after just one missed payment. Private loan contracts also typically provide for default if the borrower: (1) breaks any promise in the loan agreement; (2) files bankruptcy; or (3) makes a false statement in the loan application.

Once a private loan is in default, the loan may be referred to a debt collector or the borrower may get sued by a collection law firm.