Nearly ­­55­ percent of college loan borrowers regret the amount of debt they took out. (Matt Volz/AP)

Editor’s note: This column originally included information from a website called the Student Loan Report and used quotes, sent via email, from an individual identified as Drew Cloud, the website’s founder. This week, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that Cloud does not exist and that the Student Loan Report is owned by LendEDU, a for-profit student lending company. LendEDU chief executive Nate Matherson confirmed to The Washington Post that Cloud was a fictitious character his company created and promoted as an expert on student loans. He apologized for the deception and for not previously disclosing his company’s affiliation with the Student Loan Report. The quotes attributed to Cloud and the information from Student Loan Report have been removed from this article.

After all their hard work, the college class of 2017 is finally enjoying the real world and all its “perks,” including having to pay back their student loans.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s latest report on household debt and credit found that outstanding student loan balances increased in the past year by $83 billion, to $1.34 trillion.

Borrowers shouldn’t wait until the first due date to make sure they can handle the monthly payments. A good first step is to contact the company servicing their loan to discuss all their repayment options and to make sure their email and mailing addresses are up to date. Many graduates do not know the name of the company servicing their federal student loans.

The standard plan to pay off loans is 10 years. This is key because the payments under the standard option might be too high for a new graduate’s budget. If this is the case, they should consider an income-based repayment plan.

There are four income-driven plans offered for federal loans:

● Income-based repayment plan (IBR).

● Pay-as-you-earn repayment plan (PAYE).

● Revised pay-as-you-earn repayment plan (REPAYE).

● Income-contingent repayment plan (ICR).

You can learn about the differences in the plans by going to StudentLoans.gov.

A report last month from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that borrowers in income-based plans have much lower default rates than those enrolled in other types of payment arrangements. The CFPB said that 9 in 10 of the highest-risk borrowers were not enrolled in affordable federal repayment plans that allow them to pay based on how much they earn. According to the report, the Education Department estimates that more than 8 million federal student loan borrowers went at least 12 months without making a required monthly payment.

Here’s a sobering finding for co-signers: 20 percent of borrowers did not understand that their payment history could negatively impact their co-signers’ credit. Late payments do show up on the credit history of a co-signer.

The New York Fed reported that 11 percent of student loans were at least 90 days delinquent or in default.

For some, consolidating federal loans might be a good idea. There is no application fee to merge multiple federal education loans into one. This is essential to know because there are private companies that, for a fee, offer to help people apply for a direct consolidation loan.

There’s no need to pay for this fairly easy process.

Borrowers can apply online for a direct consolidation loan through StudentLoans.gov.

If you have questions, contact the Loan Consolidation Information Call Center at ­800-557-7392.

Nearly 28 percent of poll participants thought their loans could be discharged in bankruptcy. The bar you have to jump to get your student loans erased is pretty high: You must prove that they are an undue hardship.

No wonder borrowers so often regret the debt they took on to go to college.

Write Singletary at The Washington Post, 1301 K St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or singletarym@washpost.com. To read more, go to wapo.st/michelle-singletary