Great Lakes Educational Loan Services was a Wisconsin-based loan servicer for both federal and private student loans. In 2018, the company was acquired by Nelnet, which, as of July 2023, services all outstanding Great Lakes student loans. Before the merger, Great Lakes contracted with more than 6,000 schools and 1,000 lenders — including the U.S. Department of Education — to manage loans for millions of borrowers.

Key takeaways

  • Great Lakes Educational Loan Services was acquired by Nelnet in 2018 and no longer originates student loans.
  • After the merger, Nelnet began servicing all outstanding student loans issued through Great Lakes.
  • It was previously one of the largest loan servicers in the country, contracting with the federal government to manage federal student loans.

Is Great Lakes Educational Loan Services a good loan servicer?

Prior to the Great Lakes Nelnet merger, Great Lakes Educational Loan Services was one of the largest loan servicers in the country, receiving an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.

What types of student loans did Great Lake service?

It’s a common question: Is Great Lakes a federal loan or private loan servicer? Most recently, Great Lakes managed private student loans. But it also previously was one of nine companies that contracted with the U.S. Department of Education to manage federal student loans, until its contract was not renewed in 2020.

As a servicer, Great Lakes didn’t lend money to borrowers — instead, it handled the day-to-day tasks of managing loan payments. It sent out billing statements, processed payments, reported account activity to the credit bureaus, kept track of loan balances and helped borrowers with any questions or issues.

In addition to loan servicing, Great Lakes provided entrance and exit counseling, loan repayment plans, the ability to request deferment or forbearance, information about scholarships, grants and private loans and tips for graduating with less debt. Great Lakes also committed to increasing the number of disadvantaged students who start and complete a postsecondary degree or certificate through Community Investments.

Lawsuits against Great Lakes

The servicer paid $1.275 million in a class action lawsuit after it reported loan payments incorrectly during the automatic federal forbearance period that began in March 2020. Some payments were reported as “deferred” but should have been coded as if the borrower made them. Millions of Great Lakes account holders may have seen their credit scores dip as a result.

How do I know if Great Lakes is my loan servicer?

Once you take out a student loan, the lender assigns your account to a loan servicer to manage your account and payments. Your servicer should contact you once it’s assigned to your account, which usually happens right after you receive the funds.

From here on out, you’ll contact this servicer for all matters relating to your student loans. If you’re unsure which company services your loans, you can usually find out by checking your credit reports or logging in to your Federal Student Aid account. You can also call 1-800-4-FED-AID to find out.

Your lender may eventually transfer your loan to a new servicer — and if that happens, the new servicer will contact you and notify you of the change. If you had a student loan from Great Lakes, the company should have reached out to let you know that your loan was being transferred to Nelnet.

How do I make my student loan payments with Great Lakes?

In October, the pause on federal student loan payments is scheduled to end. At that point, you can make payments on your original Great Lakes loan through Nelnet. The company will send you a monthly billing statement three weeks before each payment is due.

Nelnet offers a few payment options, including:

  • Auto debit or one-time online payments through Nelnet’s website
  • By mailing a payment to the address on your statement
  • By phone at 888-486-4722
  • Online bill pay through your bank

How to contact Great Lakes Educational Loan Services

If you have questions about your Great Lakes student loan, you’ll need to contact Nelnet through one of the following channels:

  • Phone: Call the company at 888-486-4722 (domestic), 855-324-4027 (U.S. military), or 303-696-3625 (international).
  • Online form: Submit this form to reach Nelnet by email.
  • Social media: You can also reach out to Nelnet on Twitter or Facebook.
  • Mail: You can send general correspondence and qualified written requests to the servicer at P.O. Box 82561, Lincoln, NE 68501-2561 or P.O. Box 82578, Lincoln, NE 68501-2578 (California residents).
  • Fax: If you prefer to communicate by fax, you can do so at 877-402-5816.

How to file a dispute with Great Lakes

If you’re having an issue with your loan, you should contact Nelnet to explain the problem and discuss your options. Whether you reach out over the phone or by mail, make sure to keep written documentation of your conversations and follow up in writing. You may also be able to request a copy of your customer service history, which should include notes about conversations you’ve had with representatives.

If you have a problem with a federal student loan and can’t resolve it with Nelnet, you may need to contact the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) Ombudsman Group. Be aware, though, that this group can’t help with disputes over private loans. For private loans, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

The bottom line

If you’re not sure who your loan servicer is, log into your Federal Student Aid account or check your credit reports. Your loan servicer is your main point of contact for the life of your loan. Get in touch if you need help changing your payment plan or accessing hardship programs.