Great Lakes is one of the largest student loan servicers in the United States. As such, it handles payments and general services for millions of borrowers whose loans were issued by the Department of Education and private lenders.
Here you’ll discover the history of Great Lakes and services they offer, plus information on Great Lakes student loan forgiveness programs.
Who is Great Lakes?
Great Lakes is a non-profit student loan servicer that owns millions of federally backed loans across the United States. According to the Great Lakes website, the company works with over 6,000 schools and 1,000 lenders to help students attend college.
Until recently, Great Lakes was one of four servicers approved by the Department of Education to service federal student loans. In late 2017, Nelnet made an offer to purchase Great Lakes for $150 million. Federal regulators approved the sale a few months later, making Great Lakes part of the Nelnet organization. However, Great Lakes still operates separately from Nelnet.
In 2018, Great Lakes serviced over $232 billion in student loans from more than 7.5 million borrowers under its federal contract. Great Lakes employs roughly 1,600 people across all its operating centers and from its headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin.
What Does Great Lakes Do?
Unlike other servicers, Great Lakes doesn’t offer student loans. It does, however, serve as the guarantor and/or loan servicer to millions of borrowers nationwide. Even with its recent acquisition, Great Lakes handles a full range of student loan-related services that include repayment plans, federal consolidations, and student loan forgiveness programs.
As a non-profit that specializes in the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program, Great Lakes owns the guarantees on nearly $80 billion in FFEL loans. Across the entire business, Great Lakes services more than $200 billion in student loans from both federal and private lenders.
Great Lakes and Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
Due to its partnership with the Department of Education, there are several Great Lakes student loan forgiveness programs available to eligible borrowers.
Great Lakes and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
As a full-time public employee, or as a full-time volunteer in AmeriCorps and Peace Corps, you could be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) through Great Lakes.
In addition to working for a PSLF-approved employer, you’ll need to have loans that qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness with Great Lakes, and make 120 consecutive, on-time payments towards these qualifying loans. Once you’ve met all the requirements, your student loans may become eligible for forgiveness.
If you’re approved for PSLF, all qualifying loans will be moved to FedLoan Servicing to complete the PSLF forgiveness process.
Have you been denied for PSLF before, even though you qualified? Get information on the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) program, which helps eligible borrowers in your situation.
Great Lakes and Teacher Loan Forgiveness
Are you a teacher with Direct Loans or FFEL program loans? If you work full-time in a low-income school or educational agency, you might qualify for Teacher Loan Forgiveness through Great Lakes.
Depending on your eligibility, Teacher Loan Forgiveness offers up to $17,500 in loan repayment assistance on qualifying loans. If you have a Perkins Loan, you could also qualify for a Perkins Loan Cancellation. You can learn more about the requirements for Teacher Loan Forgiveness and Perkins Loan Cancellation for teachers here.
Great Lakes and Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge
If you’re a permanently disabled veteran or individual with student loans, you might be eligible for a Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge. But once you’re approved, all eligible loans will be moved to the DOE’s sole servicer, Nelnet, who is the exclusive servicer of the TPD Discharge program.
As part of the application process for the TPD Discharge, you’ll need to submit paperwork proving your disabled status from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, your doctor, or the Social Security Administration. But once your TPD Discharge is approved, any student loan balances you have could be discharged by your lender.
Great Lakes and Other Student Loan Discharges
Looking for other ways to become debt-free? You might be able to take advantage of some Great Lakes student loan discharge programs under certain circumstances. These include:
- School closure discharge
- False certification discharge
- Unpaid refund discharge
Each of these programs has strict requirements, so it’s important to find out if you’re eligible. Explore our student loan discharges for more information.
Great Lakes and Income-Driven Repayment Plans
Are your student loans not eligible for forgiveness? You might consider refinancing or consolidating your loans to make them eligible for Great Lakes student loan forgiveness programs. Here are some income-driven repayment plans that could help you qualify:
- Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan
- Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Repayment Plan
- Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) Repayment Plan
- Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan
- Income Sensitive Repayment (ISR) Plan
Income-driven repayment plans typically offer lower monthly payments, longer repayment periods, and may qualify you for one or more student loan forgiveness programs that can help you become debt-free.
Recent News About Great Lakes
Here are some recent news stories about Great Lakes that shows its impact on borrowers and the entire student loan industry.
April 2015: During President Obama’s time in the Oval Office, he made numerous efforts on behalf of student loan borrowers, leading many to call his work “Obama Loan Forgiveness”. In early 2015, Pres. Obama released the Student Aid Bill of Rights to help address growing problems with servicers like Great Lakes, and to protect students and families taking out loans.
May 2015: Two different law firms file a class action lawsuit against Great Lakes, alleging the company violated portions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
February 2017: Nicole Denise Nelson, a former local assistant attorney general, sues Great Lakes in an East St. Louis federal court. In the class action lawsuit, Ms. Nelson alleges that Great Lakes steered her and others into forbearance instead of offering other income-driven repayment plans, saddling them with costly interest fees.
May 2017: Great Lakes decides not to charge high collection fees on student loans that are past due, despite approval from the White House. As long as borrowers agree to take care of the debt, Great Lakes plans to honor the original terms of each student loan. Critics argue this is one more step in the wrong direction for Trump on student loans.
October 2017: Great Lakes is sued by Amanda Lawson-Ross, who claims the company gave her false information over the period of several years on her eligibility for the PSLF program. In the lawsuit, Ms. Lawson-Ross alleges that Great Lakes said her loans met the program’s requirements. However, years later she discovered they didn’t, and that she’d have to restart the program after consolidating her loans.
February 2018: Nelnet completes the purchase of Great Lakes for $150 million with federal approval.
February 2018: NPR gets ahold of an internal memo written by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos. In the memo, Secretary Devos argues for the protection of federal student loan servicers like Great Lakes, saying they should be exempt from state lawsuits.
February 2019: The DOE inspector general publishes a report on federal student loan contractors, claiming servicers like Great Lakes aren’t being monitored closely enough and may be costing taxpayers millions of dollars annually by not preventing delinquencies and defaults.
Great Lakes Reviews
With its recent acquisition by Nelnet, Great Lakes continues to grow, and the company now services millions more student loans annually. The acquisition has raised Nelnet’s profile in the industry, thanks to Great Lakes’ reputation as one of the more popular servicers.
Currently, Great Lakes boasts an “A+” rating with the Better Business Bureau, with less than 100 complaints and negative reviews. On the Consumer Affairs website, however, Great Lakes holds a 1.2-star rating after receiving more than 200 negative reviews from borrowers.
Is Great Lakes Your Loan Servicer?
If you’re unhappy with Great Lakes as your loan servicer, consolidating your loans can give you more options. Through a Federal Direct Loan Consolidation, you can choose who you want as your servicer, and potentially access a variety of loan forgiveness benefits. Beyond loan forgiveness, a consolidation can help you:
- Streamline multiple student loan payments into a single monthly payment
- Get a single interest rate based on the weighted average of all consolidated loans
- Make your loans eligible for more favorable income-driven repayment plans
In addition to a federal student loan consolidation, private student loan consolidation is also an option. Depending on your situation, consolidating your student loans with a private lender could offer you a lower interest rate, better repayment terms, and superior customer service. Doing so, however, could cause you to lose access to the benefits associated with federal programs, including loan forgiveness.
Interested in moving your loans away from Great Lakes as your servicer? Want to learn more about your student loan options? Simply fill out our free online form or call a student loan specialist by phone at (800) 771-6358.
STUDENT LOAN SERVICERS Student loan repayment has undergone tremendous reform over the past few decades. As part of these federal student debt relief initiatives, new options have become available to…
STUDENT LOAN SERVICERS Student loan repayment has undergone tremendous reform over the past few decades. As part of these federal student debt relief initiatives, new options have become available to those looking to benefit from today’s student loan forgiveness programs.Learn More