January 23, 2020


The student loan arena contains dozens of abbreviations and acronyms.   If I haven’t yet written out the definition, I’m sorry – I’ve been busy!  Email me and I’m happy to define.  Here are the most common ones:

AWG (Administrative Wage Garnishment) – this is a type of wage garnishment unique to the U.S. Department of Education or creditors of federally guaranteed student loans.  Unlike other creditors who must first sue you and obtain a garnishment, a federal student loan creditor need only give you notice of your right to ask for an administrative hearing with one of their hearing officers, then they can garnish up to 15% of your take home pay.  See this blog post for more.

Capitalization – this means that interest which has accrued while your loan was in deferment (i.e., the time you were actually studying in school, or when your loan was otherwise deferred) is added to the principal balance.  This is why your initial loan balance upon graduation may be higher than the amount of your loan.   This blog post explains capitalization in more detail.  You will be subject to capitalization if your loans are unsubsidized.

Collection Fee


DCIA (Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996)



Direct Loans – this is the only type of federally guaranteed loan that can be issued as of July, 2010.  Direct Loans are originated by ED (the Dept. of Education).  ED contracts with collection agencies to collect delinquent Direct Loans.  Direct Loans are also known as William D. Ford Direct Loans.  Stafford Loans are a form of Direct Loan.

Discretionary forbearance

Economic hardship deferment

ED – U.S. Department of Education – this is a federal agency that manages all federal student loans.  As of July 1, 2010, all federal student loans are issued by the Department of Education.  Prior to that date, the Department of Education either issued loans (Direct Loans) or guaranteed student loans issued by banks.

False Certification

FDCPA – this acronym stands for the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.   This federal law mainly applies to debt collectors (not the actual lender) and prohibits abusive or excessive collection techniques.  Often debt collectors hired by private student loan lenders violate the FDCPA and thus may be liable to you for damages.

FFEL – Federal Family Education Loan Program – this type of student loan has been discontinued as of July, 2010.  Existing FFEL loans will continue to exist.  FFEL loans were originated by a bank, and guaranteed by a Guarantor.  The Guarantor was insured by ED.

Grace period

Guaranty Agency

HEAL loan

IBR (income based repayment)

ICR (income contingent repayment)


Mandatory Administrative Forbearance Request

Mandatory Forbearance Request

MIL (Military Service Deferment)

NSLDS – National Student Loan Data System – located at the U.S. Department of Education web site you can obtain a transcript showing the payment status and balances due of all Department of Education issued or guaranteed loans.  Private student loan information does not appear on your NSLDS transcript.  Link: https://www.nslds.ed.gov/nslds_SA/

PAYE (Pay as You Earn)

Perkins Loans – these loans are issued by schools directly from a pool of money issued by the federal government.   There is no guarantor or private bank involved.  If a Perkins loan goes into default, ED takes it back for collection but does not reimburse the school’s pool of Perkins funds.  A school can lose its Perkins eligibility of too many of these loans go into default.  Perkins loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.

PLUS loans – PLUS deferments

Post Active Duty Student Deferment

PSLF (Public Service Loan Forgiveness)



SSA Disability

School Closure

September 11 Loan Forgiveness

SERV (see Mandatory Forbearance Request)

Social Security Offset

Stafford Loans – a Stafford Loan is a federal student loan issued by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to graduates or undergraduates.  Currently, the Stafford Loan program will lend up to $3,500 per year to freshman undergrads, $4,500 to sophomores, and $5,500 to juniors, seniors and 5th year undergrads.  Graduate students may borrow as much as $12,500 per year.  Lower income students may qualify for subsidized Stafford loans.  You may borrow funds under the Perkins Loan program in addition to borrowing  under the Stafford Loan program.

Subsidized/Unsubsidized interest – if your family’s income falls below a designated threshold, the interest that accrues on your Stafford loan will be paid by the U.S. government while you are in school.  When you graduate or leave school, therefore, you do not start with an interest accrual.  If your loan is unsubsidized, the interest on your loan begins to accrue immediately when you sign for the loan, meaning that when you graduate or leave school, your loan balance will include both unpaid principal and the interest that accrued during your time at school.  Subsidized loans were eliminated for graduate and professional school as of July 1, 2012.

Tax Refund Intercept

TEACH (Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education)

TPD (Total and Permanent Disability)

UNEM (Unemployment Deferment Request)

Unpaid refund


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Jonathan Ginsberg

Jonathan Ginsberg has served the Atlanta area community as a personal bankruptcy and student loan debt management lawyer for over 25 years. Contact Jonathan for straight answers to difficult debt problems.