Some borrowers of federal student loans may receive a letter or email from a company called Great Lakes. If this is true for you, then chances are pretty good that Great Lakes is your student loan servicer, and you should immediately open and read the communication that they’ve sent.
Here, we explore Great Lakes and answer all of your questions about the company so that you can better understand who they are, what they do, and what role they’re meant to play in helping you pay back your student loans successfully.
Who is Great Lakes?
Great Lakes was founded in 1967, and was originally known as the Wisconsin Higher Education Corporation (WHEC). Upon its founding, the non-profit served an important function guaranteeing federal student loans provided through the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) to Wisconsin families. The company officially became known as Great Lakes in 1988.
Great Lakes and Nelnet
In February of 2018, most of Great Lakes was acquired by Nelnet, another federal student loan servicer. Despite being acquired, the company continues to operate under the Great Lakes brand. The business segment of Great Lakes that was dedicated to guaranteeing loans made through the FFELP is still active as a newly formed company, Ascendium.
What does Great Lakes do?
As mentioned above, Great Lakes is a federal student loan servicer. This means that the company is responsible for performing a number of important duties under law, including:
- Receiving, processing, and filing student loan paperwork and forms
- Accepting and allocating monthly student loan payments
- Broadly managing your student loans
- Monitoring and tracking payment due dates and loan status
- Processing change requests
- Answering any student loan questions you have
- Educating you about the various federal student loan repayment plans available to you
- Guiding you through deferment and forbearance, should you qualify and need to pause payments
- Helping you work towards forgiveness, if you qualify
Types of Loans Serviced by Great Lakes
Great Lakes handles federal student loans originated through the Direct Loan Program, including:
- Direct Subsidized Loans
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans
- Direct Parent PLUS Loans
- Direct Graduate PLUS Loans
- Direct Consolidation Loans
- Perkins Loans
- Stafford Loans
Great Lakes does not directly lend private student loans to borrowers. Borrowers of FFELP loans that were originally serviced by Great Lakes may have had their loans transferred to another servicer, or to Ascendium, the new company formed from the remaining business segment not acquired by Nelnet.
How to Contact Great Lakes
Often, borrowers see their student loan servicer in a negative light: After all, these are the people after your money. But that’s the wrong way to think about a servicer. Your student loan servicer—whether Great Lakes or anyone else—is tasked with helping you successfully repay your student loans. They don’t want you to default; they want you to succeed.
That’s why, if you ever have a question about your specific student loan or think that you may not be able to make a payment, you should contact your servicer right away. The worst thing you can ever do is simply stop making payments hoping that your loan debt will go away!
Need to contact Great Lakes? You can do so through one of the channels below. Their business hours are 7am to 9pm Central Time, Monday through Friday.
Great Lakes Phone
Great Lakes Fax
Great Lakes email
As a means of ensuring your privacy, you cannot directly email Great Lakes with a question about your student loan account. You can, though, send them a message by email through an online form located here. You will need your Great Lakes ID and the last four digits of your Social Security Number to do so.
Great Lakes Mail
Correspondence can be sent to:
P.O. Box 7860
Madison, WI 53707-7860
Alternatives to Great Lakes Servicing
Do you have a complaint with Great Lakes? Looking to transfer your loan to a different servicer? Unfortunately, this usually isn’t possible; the U.S. Department of Education retains the right to allocate your loan to whichever servicer it chooses. Though it may be possible to request a new servicer in the event of abuse or misconduct, it typically isn’t granted. That being said, you can stop working with Great Lakes by pursuing either consolidation or refinancing.
Student Loan Consolidation
Student loan consolidation involves taking multiple federal student loans and merging them into a single new federal loan, called a Direct Consolidation Loan. In completing the process, you can choose to either keep your loan with your current servicer or to transfer it to a new servicer. While there are no guarantees, these requests are often granted.
While there are a number of reasons, such as streamlined repayment and an easier time keeping track of student loans, that borrowers choose to undergo consolidation, consolidating your student loans can also bring certain negative repercussions that make it less than ideal for some borrowers. For example, it might reduce your options for student loan forgiveness, if that was something you were considering. This is why it’s so important you understand the pros and cons of student loan consolidation before you decide to move forward with it.
Student Loan Refinancing
The other option at your disposal is to refinance your student loan through a private lender. In refinancing a federal student loan, you are essentially converting it into a private loan. This means that the government has no say over who your lender is: That’s completely up to you.
Though this gives you a lot more control to choose a lender you actually want to work with, and may even help you qualify for lower interest rates, it does also mean giving up the benefits that typically come from borrowing federal student loans: Namely, the flexible repayment and forgiveness options, among other borrower protections. Again, that’s why it is so important that borrowers understand the pros and cons of refinancing your student loans before you jump into the process.
Great Lakes is owned by Nelnet. Nelnet offers student loan refinancing through its business segment U-fi. If you are seeking student loan refinancing specifically because you had a bad experience with Great Lakes, and you do not want to work with the company in the future, you may want to seek refinancing from a lender other than U-fi or Nelnet.