Federal Student Loans v. Private Student Loans
Federal student loans are issued by the government. The terms are set by law.
There are various types of federal loans that you might have: Direct Loans, FFEL Loans, Stafford Loans, PLUS Loans (taken out by the parent of the student), and Perkins Loans.
Private student loans are made by non-government entities (banks, credit unions, etc). The terms are set by the particular lender.
But since you are here because you already have the loans, we will discuss differences regarding repayment.
Federal loans offer payment options for standard repayment over time, and also offer income driven repayment options.
Private student loans do not have to offer payment options.
Federal student loans do not have a limitations period on collection (Statute of Limitations). They follow you until you pay them off, are relived of liability, or until you die.
Private student loans do have a statute of limitations (generally 5 years in Florida). If you go without a payment for 5 years, you would have a defense in any lawsuit brought against you.
Which brings me to collections…
Federal student loans can go straight to a garnishment, tax refund intercept, or social security garnishment if you go into default.
Private student loans must sue you in state court and get a judgment before they can attempt garnishment.
This only explains a few of the differences between federal and private loans.