Great Lakes Educational Loan Services Inc or Great Lakes is a student loan servicer which is an affiliate of Nelnet Diversified Solutions, LLC. It is a non-profit corporation and is one of the country’s leading student loan service providers in the US with around 10 million borrowers. It doesn’t provide loans but works with 6000 schools, the US Department of Education and 1000 lenders to provide services for their loans.
Great Lakes provides the following types of services to its customers-
Collection of monthly payments and tracking payment history
Enrolling in an Income-Driven Repayment Plan
Guiding the borrowers to qualify for loan forgiveness programs and payments
Help with forbearance and deferment options
Table of Contents
- Repayment options provided by Great Lakes
- Repayment options
- Direct Loan Consolidation
- Making payments with Great Lakes
- Great Lakes Benefits to Servicemembers
- Refinancing Options
- Contact Information
- How to file a complaint
- Problems with Great Lakes Student Loans
Repayment options provided by Great Lakes
Great Lakes provides the following repayment options to borrowers of Federal loans which they can choose from to make debt repayments.
1. Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) Plan
IDR plan are of 4 types which the borrower can choose from to make payments-
Income-Based Repayment Plan
Income-Contingent Repayment Plan
2. Standard Repayment Plan - This plan is made available by the federal government for the loan borrowers automatically if you do not choose an alternative. It has a repayment term of 10 years in which you have to make fixed monthly payments throughout the life of the loan.
Great Lakes have different repayment options for private loan borrowers depending on the lender. Contact your lender if you want to know about the options available to you.
They might offer plans similar to what the federal government offers but keep in mind that there are other benefits that are provided for federal loan borrowers which private loans are deprived of.
3. Graduated Repayment Plan - This plan allows you to make lower payments at the beginning which increases every two years. It is helpful for those who are earning less income and cannot afford to make fixed payments.
Keep in mind that the interest that accrues during this period will capitalize at the end making the debt payments costlier in the long run.
4. Extended Repayment Plan - This plan, either standard or graduate allows you to extend your repayment period up to 25 years. It will lower your payments and give you more time to repay your loans.
If you are a Federal Loan borrower and having a hard time making payments, then you can postpone your payments by going for either deferment or forbearance.
Deferment allows you to press pause on your payments for a certain period of time. It can be of great help as it will give you time to get back on your feet if you are facing financial troubles. Interest accrues during the deferment period and some Federal Loans don’t need you to pay interest while you are still in school as the government has it covered.
Deferment can be used when you are facing the following situations-
You got yourself enrolled back in school for at least half-time
You are unemployed or working for less than 30 hours a week and are looking for full-time employment
Facing temporary financial hardship
You are on active military duty during a war, military operation or national emergency
You are actively part of the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps
You are taking part in a graduate fellowship program or rehabilitation training
Forbearance also allows you to reduce or stop making payments for a period of time. If you don’t qualify for a deferment, then you can go for forbearance option. It is not granted automatically but has to be approved by your lender or servicer. If you qualify for a forbearance, do know that there is a time limit set by the lender, servicer or regulators.
The interest accrues during the forbearance period and you are responsible for making these interest payments. Such options are not applicable to private student loans.
Direct Loan Consolidation with Great Lakes
If you have multiple Federal Loans with different terms and interest rates, then it can be difficult managing payments. You can consolidate your loans by combining them into one single loan in order to simplify payments.
As allowed by the US Department of Education, you can choose your loan consolidation servicer (Great Lakes being one) under the Direct Consolidation Loan Program.
Your multiple loans can be combined and made to only one single loan
You get a fixed interest rate on the loan
You need to make only one payment on the loan every month
You can choose the student loan servicer you wish to consolidate your loans from
No consolidation fee is charged
You get flexible repayment options
You can be eligible for a temporary forbearance which can make your qualifying past due loans current
Eligible borrowers can get their consolidation loans to qualify for loan forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Plan.
If the loans you wish to consolidate are in a grace period, make sure to mention it on your application or else it will be processed immediately making you lose your remaining grace period.
You should have at least one Federal Loan
You should have loans in grace, deferment, forbearance, delinquent or repayment status
If you are in school, you can’t consolidate your loans
You can consolidate your defaulted loans but you have to enroll your new consolidation loan on an income-driven repayment plan
Keep in mind the following
You have to pay a different interest rate
You have to pay for a longer period
Your grace period
Your Direct Parent PLUS Loans are not eligible for consolidation under PAYE or IBR plan
You might lose out on some Federal student loan benefits.
Making payments with Great Lakes
The following are some of the ways through which you can make payments for your loans-
1. Auto Pay - Signing up for autopay allows the lender to automatically deduct your payments directly from your savings or checking account on the due date. It will be helpful as you do not have to worry about late payments. Also, Great Lakes provides a 25% reduction on your interest rates if you sign up for autopay.
2. Pay Online - You can easily make monthly payments online anytime, anywhere. This option also allows you to keep track of your payment history, and save your bank details to make payments conveniently.
3. Mobile App - You can get the Great Lakes mobile app on your Android or iPhone and use it to make payments or check your loan details. This application also notifies you about your due dates and successful payments you’ve made.
4. Pay by call - You can call them up on their automated telephone system and make payments, available 24/7. You can also choose to speak to their trained representatives during business hours so that they can guide you on how to make payments or answer any questions that you might have.
5. Pay by Mail - You can pay by check and send it across through mail to the address of Great Lakes. Make sure you send along your payment insert from your billing statement and also mention your Payment Reference Number on your check.
In case you have trouble making payments at a certain period of time, you can actually request for a change in your payment due date so that you can pay at a time when it is most convenient for you.
Benefits to Servicemembers
As a token of appreciation, Great Lakes provides a number of benefits to the servicemembers of the nation.
1. Interest rate reductions - Servicemembers on active military duty can qualify for either or both of the following interest rate reductions-
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) - Members qualifying for this act will have their interest rate charged up to a maximum of 6% and also have their late fees dropped. SCRA benefits start on the first day of your active military duty and end after you are done.
To qualify, you need to meet the following requirements -
(a) Your loans have to be disbursed before the date your active duty starts.
(b) The start date of your active duty has to be confirmed from the US Department of Defense database or submit a copy of your orders.
Zero Percent Interest for Hostile Areas - Servicemembers having a military duty in hostile areas and receiving special pay can qualify for zero percent interest in which you won’t have to pay any interest on your qualifying Direct Loans for up to 6 months.
To qualify, you need to meet the following requirements-
(a) Eligible loans are Federal Direct Loans disbursed on or after October 1, 2008.
(b) Provide documented proof that you are deployed in a hostile area like your certified official’s statement and signature, military orders which show that you are serving in a hostile area or a leave and earnings statement which shows that you are getting hostile pay.
2. Reduce your payments - You can get yourself enrolled in Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plan to lower your federal loan payments.
Heroes Act Waiver - This act has provisions that allow qualifying borrowers to extend their income-driven repayment plan.
(a) A renewal of their current IDR plan can be done by eligible service members up to 90 days after their end date or maximum one year, whichever is less.
(b) A renewal of their current IDR plan can be done by eligible non-service members for up to 1 year from the qualifying event.
To qualify, you need to meet the following requirements -
(i) You are on active war duty, other military operation or national emergency
(ii) You are carrying out qualifying National Guard duty for war, other military operation or national emergency
(iii) You are living in or employed in a place stated as a disaster area by any federal, state or local official regarding a national emergency
(iv) You have gone through direct economic hardship because of war or other military operation or national emergency as decided by the US Department of Education
3. Temporarily postpone your payments - You can choose to postpone your payments while you are serving in the military. The following are the options available-
Military Service Deferment - If you are eligible for this deferment, it’ll allow you to temporarily stop making payments on your Federal Loans while you are on active duty during a war, military operation or national emergency. You should also be placed in a duty station which isn’t your normal station.
Post Active Duty Student Deferment - If you are on active federal or state duty while still enrolled in school, then you can be eligible for this deferment which allows you to stop making payments for 13 months maximum after you are done with your active duty service.
National Guard Duty Mandatory Forbearance - Some members of the National Guard having federal student loans can get this forbearance benefit if-
(a) They don’t qualify for Military Service Deferment but are called for a state active duty that qualifies for Post Active Duty Student Deferment
(b) They have been called for National Guard duty within six months after being enrolled in school for at least half time.
Department of Defense Loan Repayment Program Mandatory Forbearance - Service members who are carrying out service makes them eligible for partial repayment of student loans under the Department of Defense Loan Repayment program can avail this benefit. To qualify for this, you have to meet the requirements-
(a) Different agencies have different requirements. To find out if you are eligible, contact your commanding officer.
(b) You can apply for this forbearance if you are still waiting for a military student loan payment to go through.
4.Loan Forgiveness - You can qualify for either one of the following loan forgiveness programs.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness - To be eligible for this program, you have to meet the following requirements-
(a) Only Federal Loans are eligible
(b) You are working full-time in a qualifying public service organization
(c) You must complete 120 on-time qualifying payments
(d) You are enrolled in a qualifying repayment plan
Total and Permanent Disability Discharge - To be eligible for this program, you have to meet the following requirements-
(a) A documented proof has to be provided from the US Department of Veterans to confirm that you are unemployed because of a service-connected disability
(b) Only Federal loans are eligible.
If you are not happy with your student loan servicer and wish to switch, you can either go for a student loan forgiveness program (if eligible) or get your loans refinanced.
Refinancing your loans means the company you choose to refinance with will pay off all your previous loans and replace it with one single loan with new terms. The interest rate will be determined based on your credit score, so the better the score the lower is the interest rate you’ll be receiving. It will allow you to save money and also pay off your debts faster.
But keep in mind that if you do not have a good enough credit score, then refinancing won’t be of many benefits as the interest rate you’ll be receiving will either be the same or even higher than that on your previous loans.
Also, refinancing can only be done with a private lender. It means losing out on all those benefits which are available on Federal Loans like income-driven repayment plans, deferment, forbearance, loan forgiveness programs, and more.
So, if you can do without all these benefits and have a good enough credit score to get a better deal on your interest rate, then you can refinance your loans.
Phone number: (800) 236-4300
Fax: (800) 375-5288
How to file a complaint
If you are looking to file a complaint regarding Great Lakes, you should check out the following websites to report an issue or a problem that you are facing with the servicer.
1 - The FSA Feedback system - You are able to file a complaint using this federal student aid feedback system about your experiences with the student loan servicer in question.
You must describe the issue that you are currently facing and how you would expect it to be resolved and also attach any relevant documents that are regarding the same. The federal student aid office will respond to your complaint as soon as possible.
2. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) - You are also eligible to submit a complaint with the CFPB, which is another government website where consumers are able to receive a timely response about 97% of the time regarding their issues.
To file a complaint, the website poses a couple of questions in order to categorize the problem you are currently facing and then leads you to a section where you are able to describe what you faced with your servicer in detail so as to facilitate a quicker timeline of action.
3. Better Business Bureau (BBB) - This group works towards helping consumers resolve issues that they are facing with businesses. You are able to file a complaint with them, which has to include the following your name, address, the email with details regarding the issue that you are currently facing.
The BBB group will forward your report to the business and will request for a response within a time period of 14 days. If the company in question fails to respond within the stipulated time period, they will send another request.
In case you have a specific issue which is able to be addressed by Great Lakes or if you need help with your student loan repayment, you should proceed to contact the servicer by phone, email, mail or through any of their various social media accounts. Great Lakes social accounts are a great way to receive general Info as their facebook page has a generous response time of one hour.
The company also has a specific center of knowledge with a repayment plan to help you find the best repayment options for your budget and help you answer the most common questions that they receive.
Problems with Great Lakes Student Loans
When compared to other loan servicers, Great Lakes does not seem to have as many complaints as you would expect a loan servicer to have on file with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
It is found that the servicer received only 310 complaints in the time period between March of 2017 and March of 2018, compared to Navient's 3599 complaints, and Great Lakes has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. Even then, the servicer has received three main complaints which the borrowers seem to have trouble with. Some of the major complaints stated by borrowers seem to include the following but is not restricted to them alone-
1- They seem to have trouble with how the payments are handled - Most borrowers seem to have payment problems which include the misallocation of payments, false reporting of late payments and problems in making extra payments towards their debts.
In accordance with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, all these issues were resolved with a timely response from the Great Lakes customer service side. But when working with any of the servicers, it is also very important for you to keep a track of your payments every month even in the instance that you have signed an autopay.
2. Giving out the wrong info to the borrowers - One of the other common complaints that rise up from borrowers is that Great Lakes seems to send out the wrong info concerning their loans and debts especially during the time that borrowers try to file for deferment and forbearance.
So it goes without saying that it is best for you to keep a track of your payments and your requests which is important, especially when you are attempting to stop your payments. It is also in the best of your interests to contact the servicer as soon as possible when you seem to be having issues with your account.
3. Borrowers seem to have trouble getting flexible options for repaying their loans - Borrowers are having a hard time getting their repayment plans changed with Great Lakes or the company has not switched the repayment plan properly.
The best way to get this done with is to document the point at which you get your payment plan switching process, including the date when you filed for switching and when you receive the confirmation for the switch. Then you are able to contact Great Lakes as and when you face any issue regarding the same and are able to sort out things as soon as possible so as to not trouble you much.
Great Lakes proceeds with servicing your student loans by monitoring your school enrollment, and by helping you figure out the best repayment plan and processing your student loan payments.
With the data that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has on Great Lakes, they have received the lowest number of complaints in comparison to most of the other large federal loan servicers and it also has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
It is also an important point to note that the company which was acquired by Nelnet in the year 2018, has a much higher percentage of complaints per borrower. This acquisition might change the Service that borrowers receive in the future. Sadly, even if you wish to leave Great Lakes, you are not able to choose or change your servicers when you get your federal loan out.
You can either choose to stay with the company and continue by making on-time payments or else Choose to refinance with a private lender which would eventually become your new servicer.