When it comes to securing a federal student loan, Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation, a non-profit entity, is one of four approved loan servicers to work directly with schools and lenders. The three other giants in the industry are FedLoan, Navient, and Nelnet.
In its partnership with the Department of Education, as well as private lenders, Great Lakes has 50 years of experience in helping borrowers manage their federal and private student loans. Although during this time their mission has stayed the same, the industry has changed a lot. Great Lakes has been one of the companies leading the forefront during that time. Currently, several million student borrowers rely on Great Lakes, and more than 6,000 schools and 1,000 lenders work with them on loan services.
Great Lakes, based in Madison, WI, has a company slogan of “Doing what’s right.” As a privately-held non-profit entity, Great Lakes uses the profit from their operation to propel its philanthropic ideals of getting as many students as possible to pursue their education goals. Great Lakes believes in the power of education, but it recognizes that some segments of the population are far less likely to go to college – and those students could really unlock their potential and change the trajectory of their lives if they went.
For that reason, Great Lakes specifically focuses the grant money it has available on getting less advantaged students into college, including students of color, students from families who have lower incomes, and students who have never had a family member attend college.
The Services Offered by Great Lakes
Great Lakes provides a number of services to assist borrowers with their student loans and help preserve their credit history in case they run into repayment issues. Defaulting on a student loan can negatively impact a borrower’s future.
They offer many tools borrowers can access to help them manage their student loans responsibly. Borrowers can utilize these particular services right through the Great Lakes online portal:
- Repayment options and resources, including information on standard repayment and income-driven repayment programs.
- Access to payment schedules, billing statements, payment history, tax documents, and loan obligation statements.
- Repayment planners.
- Forbearance and deferment information for borrowers who are having difficulty making their payments.
- Closed school discharge assistance, which can help students whose school closes while they are enrolled.
In addition, Great Lakes offers an online Student Loan Knowledge Center, which offers key information such as:
- Different ways borrowers can make student loan payments, both online and through mobile apps.
- How student loan payments are applied.
- How income-driven repayment plans work and how to apply for them.
- Specific information for veterans who are planning to go back to school.
- How to postpone or decrease loan payments when borrowers are struggling financially.
Some Facts About Great Lakes
Although Great Lakes is based in Wisconsin, it also has multiple operating centers throughout the United States, including Indiana, Minnesota, South Dakota, Texas, and Connecticut.
As one of the biggest federal loan services for students, Great Lakes services more than $244 billion in student loans, with that figure being spread out over 8 million customers. Great Lakes hold the guarantees on almost $75 billion in loans for the Federal Family Education Loan Program. The company makes investments to benefit various communities and their residents. So far, the company has invested almost $260 million in grants.
Great Lakes is also an important employer for those who live in and around the operating centers and headquarters. Throughout the country, Great Lakes employs more than 2,000 people.
As a servicer, since June 2011, it has been ranked No. 1 by borrowers who participated in the U.S. Department of Education quarterly surveys.
Past Problems for Great Lakes
Although Great Lakes has had a long reputation of providing stellar services, the journey hasn’t been without a few bumps in the road.
Great Lakes Better Business Bureau
Although they have an A+ Better Business Bureau rating, there are many complaints from customers about Great Lakes on the BBB website. At the time of writing this, 83% of all reviews of Great Lakes on the BBB website are negative reviews.
Lawsuits Against Great Lakes
Great Lakes has also been embroiled in a federal court class action complaint filed by the law firms of Gingras, Cates and Wachs and Axley Brynelson. The complaint was lodged because of alleged violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
Another lawsuit was pursued by borrower Amanda Lawson-Ross, regarding her eligibility for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. The forgiveness program began in 2007 during George W. Bush’s presidency. It offers loan debt forgiveness for people who have made 10 years of payments on their balance and who have jobs at non-profits or with the government.
Lawson-Ross was going after her Ph.D. and realized she would owe more than $100,000 by the time she graduated. She checked into the loan debt forgiveness program, learned she would qualify, and allegedly confirmed that with Great Lakes.
During subsequent years, she occasionally touched base to make sure she was still going to be able to qualify. But when she called in 2017, she heard a different story from a customer service representative at Great Lakes. That agent told her all her loans wouldn’t be eligible for the forgiveness program, but that was after she made four years of payments.
She sued Great Lakes because she believes they gave false information about her eligibility for the loan forgiveness program.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Keeping Tabs
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has also kept a close eye on Great Lakes and other large-scale student loan servicers. The CFPB has been watching student loan complaints lodged by consumers from Sept. 1, 2016, to Aug. 31, 2017, for its annual report of the CFPB Student Loan Ombudsman. During that time, the CFPB handled in the ballpark of 12,900 complaints about federal student loan servicing.
Of those complaints, only 340, or 3 percent, were directed at Great Lakes. That’s compared to 61 percent, or 6,274, that were directed at Navient, and 629, or 6 percent, that were aimed at Nelnet.
Some of the biggest problems experienced by consumers included trouble signing up for income-based repayment plans and having a hard time getting access to borrower protections like student loan discharge.
Reviews for Great Lakes
- BBB Rating: A+ (BBB Accredited since 7/6/2012)
- Consumer Affairs Rating: 1.2 stars (out of 5)
- Yelp Rating: 1.5 stars (out of 5)
Great Lakes Higher Education Contact Information
For more information on how Great Lakes can help with the management and repayment of your federal student loans, visit MyGreatLakes.org or contact them at:
PO Box 7860
Madison, WI 53707-7860
Refinance Your Student Loans With a Private Lender
If you have federal student loans with Great Lakes and would like to refinance them with another lender, consider the below private institutions.
Compare the Best Student Loan Refinance Rates
Here are our top student loan refinance picks for 2019
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Student Debt Relief Loan Refinancing Advertiser Disclosure
College Ave: College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine.
1 – The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as the borrower or cosigner, if applicable, enrolls in auto-pay and authorizes our loan servicer to automatically deduct your monthly payments from a valid bank account via Automated Clearing House (“ACH”). The rate reduction applies for as long as the monthly payment amount is successfully deducted from the designated bank account and is suspended during periods of forbearance and certain deferments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
2 – $5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees. Information advertised valid as of 04/26/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
3 – This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.
ELFI: Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. To qualify for refinancing or student loans consolidation through ELFI, you must have at least $15,000 in student loan debt and must have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an approved post-secondary institution.
LendKey: Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
CommonBond: Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate.
Splash Financial: Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval.com
Earnest: To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest’s fixed-rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with autopay) to 7.89% APR (with autopay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.50% APR (with autopay) to 7.27% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms of 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 0.26% and 5.03% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 23, 2019 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay Discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 04/23/19. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice.
Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 303 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.