January, Senator Richard Durbin (D, IL) introduced The Know Before You Owe Act of 2013 to the Senate. America has already passed $1 trillion in student loan debt, and 52% of students aren’t taking full advantage of federal loans available to them. He believes it’s time to change that.

This act aims to ensure that students know all of their borrowing options before deciding how to finance their higher education. It will require private lenders to verify enrollment and tuition costs with schools, and colleges to provide information such as federal aid options and eligibility.

Why is it so important that students are informed of their federal loan opportunities? Because in most cases, federal loans offer much more flexibility and forgiveness than private loans.

Federal loans always have fixed interest rates. Private loan interest rates can vary greatly, increasing students’ payback amount. Federal loans offer deferment and forbearance in certain situations. Private loans typically do not.

Yet 60% of students don’t even know the difference between federal and private student loans. As Senator Durbin said, “A little bit of education will go a long way towards helping young people save some money while still earning a valuable degree.”