The government is now more likely to award Federal Student Aid contracts to companies that offer their services for the lowest price. Some have argued that these companies offer riskier loans and provide less support to individuals trying to navigate the student loan maze.

If you’re one of the 44.2 million Americans with student loan debt, or you’re considering borrowing money to finance a degree, there are a few key ways to ensure that you’re managing your loans efficiently:

1. Know how to spot a scam

Learn how to avoid predatory student loan companies by spotting red flags, like upfront fees for simple services, aggressive advertising and grandiose student loan forgiveness claims.

2. When picking the right school, consider the cost

If you are nervous at the prospect of taking out loans, consider pursuing a degree at a non-profit institution that offers need-blind admissions and meets full need. Also, be sure to research how much students earn after graduating and consider any colleges offering tuition-free enrollment in your city or state.

3. If you need help, ask for it

Institutions like the Predatory Lending and Consumer Protection Clinic at Harvard Law School represent low-income individuals in cases related to predatory lending and other consumer challenges, including bankruptcy and debt collection defense.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your loans or believe you’ve fallen victim to a scam, find yourself an advocate as soon as possible.

4. Get creative

People all over the country are finding clever ways to pay off monstrous piles of debt. Amanda Page repaid nearly $48,000 of student loan debt in 14 months by making “monster payments.”

A teacher from Texas paid off $40,000 of student loans in 18 months by slashing costs and contributing 75% of his paycheck toward his loans. In order to conquer $107,000 in student-loan debt, Andrew Josuweit, CEO of Student Loan Hero, lowered his living expenses by moving from New York City to Austin.

Each made significant changes to their lifestyle, but emerged debt-free in under two years, as opposed to the decades it can take to repay education expenses.

5. Stay informed

Most important, do your research. Policies associated with student debt repayment and interest rates can and do change. Make sure you’re up to date on any new provisions that could change the process of repaying your loans as quickly and inexpensively as possible.