Great Lakes Educational Loan Services is a Wisconsin-based loan servicer for both federal and private student loans. It contracts with more than 6,000 schools and 1,000 lenders — including the U.S. Department of Education — to manage loans for millions of borrowers.

What is Great Lakes Educational Loan Services?

Great Lakes manages private student loans. It also previously was one of nine companies that contracted with the U.S. Department of Education to manage federal student loans, though its contract was not renewed in 2020. That means that Great Lakes will not service future federal student loans.

If you already have a federal student loan with Great Lakes, you could see your federal student loans switched from Great Lakes to a different servicer. Your loan details will remain the same, but you may make payments to a different company. If you are affected, you will receive details from Great Lakes or your new servicer.

Great Lakes doesn’t lend money to borrowers — instead, it handles the day-to-day tasks of managing loan payments. It sends out billing statements, processes payments, reports account activity to the credit bureaus, keeps track of loan balances and helps borrowers with any questions or issues. For example, if you need to change your payment plan or apply for deferment or forbearance, you’ll apply through Great Lakes.

How do you set up a Great Lakes account?

To set up an online account with Great Lakes, you’ll need to provide your Social Security number, date of birth and full name. You’ll then create a username, password and personal identification number (which may later be used for identity verification). Save these details in a safe place.

Once you set up an account, Great Lakes will need your address, phone number and email address. You can set up paperless statements or receive them in the mail.

What are the loan payment options with Great Lakes?

Great Lakes offers a variety of payment methods:

  • Automatic payments: Great Lakes can automatically deduct payments from your bank account on the due date. If you have federal student loans, you’ll get a 0.25 percent interest rate deduction by signing up for autopay. Some private student loan lenders may also offer an autopay discount.
  • Manual online payments: You can log into your account monthly and make manual payments, though you won’t get the 0.25 percent interest rate discount.
  • Phone call: You can pay by calling 800-236-4300 during business hours: Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. CT. International callers can dial 608-246-1700.
  • Bill pay: If your bank offers a bill pay feature, you can have it send payments directly to Great Lakes. Because payments might take a few days to process, set this up in advance.
  • Mobile app: Download the Great Lakes Mobile app — available on iOS or Android devices — and log in to make or schedule a payment and view details about your loans. You can also set up notifications so you’ll never miss a payment.
  • Mail: You can mail a check or money order to Great Lakes. When you do, include the payment insert from your billing statement and write the payment reference number on your check.

Does Great Lakes service my loan?

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.

Great Lakes could be your loan servicer if you have a federal Direct Loan, but it does service loans from private lenders as well.

Why would someone use Great Lakes to manage their student loans?

Great Lakes is one of the country’s leading servicers of student loans, helping millions of students pay for college and manage their student loans.

Great Lakes provides 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 has also committed to increasing the number of disadvantaged students who start and complete a postsecondary degree or certificate through Community Investments.

Great Lakes also participates in several environmental and conversation projects.

How can you contact Great Lakes?

You have several options for getting in touch with Great Lakes:

  • Log into your Great Lakes account.
  • Call 800-236-4300 Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. CT.
  • Fill out a form on Great Lakes’ contact page.
  • Send a fax to 800-375-5288.
  • Send mail to Great Lakes, P.O. Box 7860, Madison, WI 53707-7860.

Are there complaints against Great Lakes?

More than 150 borrowers have logged complaints against Great Lakes through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Better Business Bureau, the latter of which assigned a B- grade to the loan servicer.

The servicer is also addressing 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.

If Great Lakes services your loans, you can pull your credit reports and check whether your loan payments have been reported correctly. Contact the loan servicer if you find mistakes.

How is Great Lakes operating under the student loan payment pause?

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Great Lakes offers a 0% interest rate and administrative forbearance to impacted borrowers. The interest rate will remain at 0% until the end of the COVID-19 payment pause.

Borrowers may not be required to make payments during the payment pause, but they can still make payments. The full amount of the payment will be applied to the principal balance, and any payments made during the payment pause can be refunded. Additionally, unpaid interest will not capitalize during the payment pause and through June 30, 2023.

Great Lakes is also providing a variety of support services to borrowers during the payment pause. These include helping borrowers prepare for repayment, access their accounts, update contact information, and check payment amounts and due dates. Borrowers can also apply for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan.

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.