What Great Lakes Educational Loan Services borrowers need to know

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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 is one of nine companies that contract with the U.S. Department of Education to manage federal student loans, though its contract was not renewed in 2020. It also services private student loans.

Great Lakes doesn’t lend money to borrowers — instead, it handles the day-to-day tasks of managing loan payments. This means that 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, then you’ll apply through Great Lakes.

Setting 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 choose to set up paperless statements or receive them in the mail.

Great Lakes student loan payment options

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 every month and make manual payments, though you won’t get the 0.25 percent interest rate discount.
  • Phone call: You can pay over the phone 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, be sure to 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 not sure 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.

How to 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.

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.

The future of Great Lakes

Great Lakes was one of the federal student loan servicers who did not receive a contract renewal with the federal government in 2020. This means that soon 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.

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.

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