It is true that the major challenge facing students today is how to support themselves in school and Great Lakes Student Loans offers you that relief. We’ll walk you through some details about Great Lakes Student Loans in this post, including what it’s like to make payments, the loan repayment options you’ll have access to and tips for having the best Great Lakes experience.
If you have taken out a student loan (or multiple loans) to fund your higher education, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Great Lakes Higher Education Company, or “Great Lakes” for short. Let’s tell you more!
Repayment With Great Lakes Student Loans
Great Lakes Higher Education Corp is one of nine companies that service federal loan debt by collecting and tracking payments.
The easiest way to make your student loan payments with Great Lakes is to use its online portal to create an account with your personal information, including your Social Security number and date of birth.
To make repayment even easier, you can sign up for automatic payments, which will automatically deduct your payment from your bank account.
With federal loan servicers, you are given eight different repayment options for your student loans.
However, Great Lakes will automatically enroll you in its standard repayment plan, with fixed payments over 10 years, if you don’t apply or qualify for the other repayment options.
Be sure to explore the other repayment plans, as they could help you manage payments according to your budget and qualify for public service loan forgiveness (PSLF).
How Great Lakes Student Loans Works
If Great Lakes is your student loan servicer, here’s how it can benefit you:
- Register for online access to your account. Once you have access you can contact Great Lakes, access your monthly billing statements, and pay bills.
- Enroll in autopay. Great Lakes can deduct your payments automatically from your bank account. Signing up for autopay will reduce your interest rate by 0.25%.
- Sign up for income-driven repayment. You can request income-driven repayment, which limits your student loan payments to a percentage of your income, by completing a paper form with Great Lakes. (You can apply online on studentaid.gov and then recertify your income each year online as well.)
- Process deferment and forbearance requests. Great Lakes can help you temporarily stop making payments or reduce your payment amount if you qualify. This helps you stay in good standing to avoid default. But during any periods of deferment or forbearance, interest can continue to build.
- Process monthly payments and extra payments. Great Lakes will track and collect your payments. If you want to make additional payments, you can instruct Great Lakes (online, by phone, or by mail) to apply extra payments to your current balance. Otherwise, it may apply the additional amount to next month’s payment instead.
Alternatives You Could Switch To
Loan servicers play a huge role in student loan repayment, which can last up to 25 years. Unfortunately, you are not able to choose your loan servicer when you get a federal student loan, which can be an issue for some borrowers.
If you really don’t like the loan servicer that the Department of Education assigned to you, your best option would be to consolidate your federal loans, apply for a public student loan forgiveness, or refinance with a private lender.
Here are some of our top picks for refinancing your student loans:
SoFi is one of the best private lenders for students, as it offers competitive rates and good options for medical students in residency and employment assistance.
If you happen to lose your job or want new employment, the lender offers career coaches and networking opportunities. SoFi loans are serviced by MOHELA, which received an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, and has few CFPB complaints.
Earnest is best for borrowers who want repayment flexibility, as it lets you set your own monthly payment and loan term. You must be able to qualify on your own, without a co-signer, and you will need a minimum credit score of 650.
Loans are disbursed and serviced by Earnest, which has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. The lender was acquired by Navient, but they continue to operate as separate companies.
Laurel Road is a good option for borrowers who want to refinance and transfer their Parent PLUS loans to their children.
It is also a good lender for health professionals in residency programs, allowing you to defer full repayment until six months after your program ends. Laurel Road is also serviced by MOHELA, which has fewer CFPB complaints than Great Lakes. However, Great Lakes services more borrowers.
If a private lender does not offer a lower interest rate than you currently have, it may be best to stay with your federal loan servicer. Keep in mind that refinancing does not guarantee you will receive better service.
According to a CFPB report, nonfederal student loans receive more complaints as a whole than federal student loans.
Before you refinance to get away from Great Lakes: Know that refinancing a federal student loan will likely mean you’ll have to pay higher interest rates and lose federal loan repayment plans and PSLF.
Therefore, we don’t encourage this move unless you are financially secure and can handle losing the federal loan protections and benefits.
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Great Lakes Customer Service and How to Submit a Complaint
If you want to file a complaint about Great Lakes, check out these websites to report an issue or problem you have with the servicer.
FSA Feedback System: You can use this federal student aid feedback system to file a complaint about your experience with the student loan servicer.
You must describe the issue you are having and how you would like it to be resolved, and attach any relevant documents. The Federal Student Aid office will respond as quickly as possible to your report.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB): You can also submit a complaint with the CFPB, another government website, where 97% of consumers receive a timely response to their issue.
To file a complaint, the website will ask a few questions to categorize the problem you are having and then has a section where you can describe what happened with the servicer.
Better Business Bureau (BBB): The Better Business Bureau works to resolve issues consumers are having with businesses. You can file a complaint with them, in which you must include your name, address, and email with details about the issues you are having.
The BBB will forward your report to the business and will ask for a response within 14 days. If the company doesn’t respond, they will send another request.
If you have a specific issue that can be addressed by Great Lakes or need help with your student loan payments, you can contact the servicer by phone, email, mail, or through their social media accounts.
Great Lakes’ social accounts are a great way to receive general information, as their Facebook page has a one-hour response time.
Great Lakes Contact Information
- Phone number: (800) 236-4300
- Email: [email protected]
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/MyGreatLakes
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mygreatlakes
- Fax: (800) 375-5288
Common Problems with Great Lakes Student Loans
In comparison to other loan servicers, Great Lakes doesn’t have many complaints on file with the CFPB.
In our study, we found that the servicer received only 310 complaints between March 2017 and March 2018, compared to Navient’s 3,599 complaints, and Great Lakes has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
Even so, the servicer has received three main complaints that clearly many borrowers have issues with. Some of the major complaints of Great Lakes include:
Troubles with how payments are being handled: Most borrower complaints have to do with payment problems, including misallocation of payments, false reporting of late payments, and problems making extra payments.
According to the CFPB, all issues were resolved with a timely response. But when working with any servicer, it’s important to keep track of your payments each month even if you sign up for autopay.
Receiving bad information about loans: Another common complaint is that borrowers are receiving incorrect information about their loans, especially when borrowers have attempted to file for deferment and forbearance.
Again, keeping track of your payments and requests is important, especially when you are trying to stop payments. It is best to contact the servicer as soon as possible when you are having issues with your account.
Can’t get other flexible options for repaying loan: Borrowers are either having a hard time changing repayment plans with Great Lakes or the company hasn’t switched its repayment plan properly.
The best way to deal with this is to document the process of switching repayment plans, including the date you filed for switching and received confirmation. Then, you should contact Great Lakes with that information to get everything sorted out quickly.
Tips for the Best Great Lakes Borrowing Experience
1. Take advantage of Great Lakes’ online tools: The plethora of federal repayment options can be overwhelming. Luckily, Great Lakes knows that borrowers can struggle to select the right repayment option and they’ve built a Repayment Planner to make the choice easier.
The Repayment Planner allows you to see the potential impact of each program your loan(s) are eligible for, including how your length of repayment and interest paid will change. You can access the Repayment Planned by logging into your Great Lakes online account.
2. Start paying as soon as possible: While student loan repayment may be far from your mind while you’re in school, it’s a good idea to start thinking about it early.
With Great Lakes, you can even start making payments while you’re still in school, which can give you a valuable head start.
Most loans start accruing interest even while you’re in school (unless you have a subsidized loan), so beginning repayment early, even in small payments, can cut down on the total interest that accrues and get you closer to paying off your loan principal.
3. Leverage Great Lakes customer support: If you’re struggling to make your monthly payments or simply want to talk through all of your options with someone knowledgeable on the topic, Great Lakes customer support can help.
You should never have to pay for help with your student loans, and the Great Lakes team can help you understand and decide on federal student loan consolidation, payment plans, service member benefits, and more.
In addition, you don’t have to call or email for support—Great Lakes also offers assistance via Facebook and Twitter. This can be a great option if you have a quick question but don’t have the time to pick up the phone.
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To Round Up
Great Lakes services your student loans by monitoring your school enrollment, helping you find the best repayment plan, and processing your student loan payments.
Based on Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) data, Great Lakes has received the lowest number of complaints compared to all other large federal loan servicers and has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
It’s important to note that the company was acquired by Nelnet in 2018, which has a higher percentage of complaints per borrower. That acquisition may change the service you receive in the future.
Unfortunately, even if you dislike Great Lakes, you are unable to choose or switch servicers when you take out federal loans.
Your main options are to stay with the company and make on-time payments or refinance your loan with a private lender, which will come with a new servicer.