What Are Great Lakes Student Loans?
Don't Be Thrown Off by the Strange Name
You receive email or mail from a company called Great Lakes. It’s all about student loans. But you’ve never heard of Great Lakes, let alone borrowed any money from them.
While Great Lakes might not seem like a likely name for a student loan company, that’s exactly what it is. Its full name is Great Lakes Educational Loan Services, Inc., and it is an official servicer for federal student loans.
If you’ve been contacted by Great Lakes about student loans, you might be unsure what that means or what to do next. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Great Lakes?
Great Lakes is based in Madison, Wisconsin, (part of the Great Lakes region) though it offers student loan servicing nationwide. It is one of nine private companies that contracts with the U.S. Department of Education to manage the billing of federal student loans.
Great Lakes serviced $251.2 billion in federal student loans with more than 8 million borrowers as of March 31, 2019. Nelnet, a loan servicer that bought Great Lakes in 2018, had another $192.6 billion.For the 2018-2019 school year, Great Lakes was allocated 17% of new student loan volume—the second-largest portion.
How You Get Assigned a Student Loan Servicer
You might be wondering how your federal student loans have ended up with a company you’re unfamiliar with.
After the Education Department worked with your college to process your student loan request, approved it, and paid out the funds, your account was handed off. The Education Department assigned your account to one of its student loan servicers, in this case, Great Lakes. Servicers must contact you once they’re assigned to manage your loan, typically after the first payment of your student loan disbursement.
You don’t get a say in which servicer you’re assigned.
Beware of Scams
Great Lakes is one of the most commonly-assigned student loan servicers.
If there’s any question about whether the communication you’ve received is legitimate, you can easily check. Visit StudentAid.gov and log into your Federal Student Aid account to view your federal student loan info, including your servicers for each loan.
You should also be on the lookout for student loan scams. Some scammers may contact borrowers to make false claims about student loan forgiveness or their loan status, according to the Department of Education. Many debt relief companies also promise student loan assistance, only to charge borrowers for things that are otherwise free, like applying for deferment or lowering payments.
Learn the signs of a scam to protect yourself, and make sure to contact your servicer through means you know are secure.
Working With Great Lakes
As your student loan servicer, Great Lakes acts as your point of contact for all matters, from first billing to your final payment. Initially, since you don’t have to repay your student loans while you’re in college, you may just have questions or want to check your balance.
Once your repayment period kicks in, Great Lakes can provide:
- Help if you are having difficulties repaying.
- Options to change your repayment plan, including to an income-driven repayment plan.
- Applications for student loan deferment or forbearance—two ways to suspend or reduce your payments temporarily.
- Advice on whether federal student loan consolidation is right for you, and how to complete the process if it is.
If you get an email or mail from Great Lakes, pay attention. It may contain sensitive or timely information, such as notification of missed payments or even delinquency.
How to Contact Great Lakes
Whether you’re paying off your student loan early or having trouble making monthly payments, here's how to contact the company:
- Log into your online Great Lakes account to virtually view and manage your student loans
- Call (800) 236-4300 Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Central Time
- Fill out a form on Great Lakes’ contact page to request contact via email
- Send faxes to (800) 375-5288
- Send mail to Great Lakes, P.O. Box 7860, Madison, WI 53707-7860