As a student loan borrower, you might have a love-hate relationship with your loan servicer. Even so, it’s important to work with it to pay off your student loans. As an intermediary between you and your lender, your servicer helps you manage your debt and figure out the right repayment options.
Great Lakes is one of the major servicers for federal student loans, servicing over $224.4 billion in federal student debt for 7.5 million borrowers at the end of 2017. Early this year, Great Lakes was acquired by another student loan servicer giant, Nelnet. But despite the acquisition, Great Lakes will continue to work with borrowers under its name.
If you have Great Lakes student loans, read on to learn how you can take advantage of the benefits your servicer offers and pay off your loans more quickly and easily.
Great Lakes review: The basics
Great Lakes primarily services federal student loans, but it also managed $8.5 billion in private and consumer loans for 415,000 borrowers as of the close of 2017.
Whatever type of student loan you have, you’ll make payments through the Great Lakes online portal. You do this manually, although if you want to put your payments on autopilot and save some money on interest on your Direct Loan, you can sign up for autopay, which automatically withdraws payments from your bank account each month.
If you have federal student loans, you’ll be placed on the standard 10-year plan with fixed monthly payments. But Great Lakes can help you choose an alternative repayment plan if your bills on the standard plan are too burdensome.
As your student loan servicer, Great Lakes should help you find the right plan for successful debt payoff. It’s important to weigh the short- and long-term consequences before changing the repayment plan on your federal student loans, so you may want to speak with a Great Lakes specialist about your options.
Read on for more details about some of the payment plan choices on your Great Lakes student loans.
What we like about Great Lakes
Great Lakes offers resources and support to student loans borrowers. Below are four ways this servicer can help if you have Great Lakes student loans.
1. Helps you apply for a variety of student loan repayment plans
If you have federal student loans with Great Lakes, note that your loans come with a variety of repayment options, including the standard 10-year plan, income-driven repayment (IDR) and extended repayment.
If you don’t apply for an alternative plan, your student loans will remain on the standard plan. But if you’re struggling with your monthly payments, you might want to consider switching to one of these other possibilities.
- Income-driven repayment: This adjusts your monthly payment to a set percentage of your disposable income, as well as extends your repayment terms to 20 or 25 years. Any remaining balance at the end of your term will be forgiven. IDR plans include Income-Based Repayment, Income-Contingent Repayment, Pay As You Earn and Revised Pay As You Earn. Click on the link above for more details.
- Extended Repayment Plan: This plan lowers your monthly payments by extending your repayment term to up to 25 years.
- Graduated Repayment Plan: The graduated plan lowers your monthly payments but then increases them over a 10-year period, which can be a good choice for borrowers who expect to see their incomes rise in the future.
While putting your Great Lakes student loans on an IDR or Extended Repayment Plan can give you financial relief, it will also keep you in debt longer. As a result, you’ll pay more in interest than you would if you stayed on the 10-year plan. Before switching your repayment plan, make sure to think through all the pros and cons.
Note that private student loans aren’t eligible for these federal repayment plans. They typically don’t have as much flexibility when it comes to repayment, though some lenders offer forbearance if you run into financial hardship. In this case, you might also want to consider refinancing student loans, which lets you choose new repayment terms, regardless of whether the existing loans are federal or private.
If you’re struggling with private student loans serviced by Great Lakes, speak with a Great Lakes specialist about your options.
2. Accepts payments while you’re still in school
Student loans come with a grace period, meaning you don’t have to start making payments until you’ve been out of school for six months. But some types of loans start accruing interest from the date they’re disbursed, so you’ll be facing a larger balance at the end of your grace period than what you initially borrowed.
If you want to stop your balance from growing too much while you’re in school, you could make small payments as a student. Great Lakes does accept payments from borrowers who are still in school. If you can swing it, in-school payments could make it easier to repay your loans once you graduate.
3. Offers a useful repayment planner tool to borrowers
After signing into your Great Lakes online account, you’ll find a repayment planner tool that lets you play around with different student loan repayment plans.
Enter your loan amount and interest rate, and the tool will give you your monthly payments (and how much interest you’ll pay) on different plans. It can also help you see the effects of each repayment plan on your balance and length of repayment so that you can choose the best approach for your debt.
4. Provides social media support
As a Great Lakes student loan borrower, you can reach out to Great Lakes via phone or email. But you might not know you can also get assistance through social media. You can ask questions via the Great Lakes Facebook and Twitter pages. You might also pick up useful information from questions that other borrowers have asked.
That said, if your question is account-specific or involves private information, Great Lakes will address it with you over the phone or through a secure message. They can be reached Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Central Time at 1-800-236-4300 or via email at email@example.com.
What to keep in mind about Great Lakes
Although federal student loan servicers are supposed to educate borrowers about their options and help them manage repayment, they don’t always fulfill this mission. In some cases, servicers have faced government lawsuits.
While some borrowers with student loans serviced by Great Lakes speak positively about the service, there are also customers who’ve complained about errors with processing their payments or applications for IDR plans. Others have said Great Lakes didn’t apply their extra payments to their student loan balance in the right way.
Based on customer ratings with ConsumerAffairs as of Sept. 24, 2018, Great Lakes had only one star out of a possible five for overall satisfaction.
But if you have Great Lakes student loans, you don’t have to rely entirely on your loan servicer for information on your options. You can look to other trusted resources to learn about repayment options and make the right decision for your debt. And if you’re requesting an IDR plan or making extra payments on your debt, double-check that Great Lakes has applied everything correctly.
Although this might require some extra due diligence on your part, it could be worth it to make sure you’re debt is being properly managed.
Meanwhile, if you’re dissatisfied with Great Lakes for any reason, you can choose a new loan servicer by consolidating your debt with a Direct Consolidation Loan.
Paying off your Great Lakes student loans
The Class of 2017 graduated college with an average of $39,400 in student loans. Debt of this magnitude can take a long time to pay off, meaning you could be working with your student loan servicer for years.
If you’ve got Great Lakes student loans, don’t be afraid to reach out to it with any questions or concerns. As your student loan servicer, its job is to help you manage your student loans in the best way for your financial situation.
At the same time, monitor your account to ensure nothing has slipped through the cracks. By staying proactive, you can make the best financial decisions as you pay off your student debt.
Melanie Lockert contributed to this article.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2019!
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1 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.54% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.27% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of March 18, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 0318/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
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Laurel Road Disclosures
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
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Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.
All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.5% effective February 10, 2019.
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