As a student loan borrower, you may have a love/hate relationship with your loan servicer. Even so, it’s important to work with them in order to pay off your student loans.
Your loan servicer is an important intermediary between you and your lender. Your servicer helps you manage your loans, and if you are ever in a bind, they can discuss different repayment options with you.
One federal loan servicer is the Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation, commonly referred to as simply “Great Lakes.”
If you have Great Lakes student loans, read on to learn how you can take full advantage of the benefits you servicer offers and pay off your loans ASAP.
About Great Lakes
In 2018, student loan company Nelnet announced that it had purchased Great Lakes. At the time of the purchase, Great Lakes was servicing over $224 billion in federal student loans.
Despite the acquisition, Nelnet and Great Lakes operate as two distinct brands, rather than just one company. However, they are working together to create a new servicing platform for government-owned student loans. The goal of the new platform is to simplify the customer experience and enhance security.
What does Great Lakes do as a loan servicer?
As a student loan servicer, Great Lakes helps set up borrowers for successful loan repayment.
“It is our responsibility to help student loan borrowers get started on the path to repayment,” said Renola Swoboda, social media specialist at Great Lakes. “We recognize that student loans can be confusing, overwhelming, and scary for some borrowers. We help make it more manageable by answering their questions and concerns, and incorporating any feedback we receive from them.”
Making student loan payments to Great Lakes
If you have Great Lakes student loans, the easiest way to make payments is through their online portal. Start by creating an account online; you’ll need to share your Social Security number and date of birth so you can retrieve your loan information. Then, you’ll create a username and password in order to log in to make payments.
If you want to put your payments on autopilot and save some money on interest, you can sign up for auto-pay, which automatically withdraws you payments from your bank account each month.
Great Lakes student loan repayment options
If you don’t apply for an alternative repayment plan, Great Lakes will automatically enroll you in the Standard Repayment Plan, which offers fixed payments over the course of 10 years. This option is good if you can afford it because you’ll save money on interest compared to other plans with longer repayment terms.
If your student loans feel overwhelming and you have a limited income, you may want to consider an income-driven (IDR) plan to make payments more manageable. Under an IDR plan, the loan servicer extends your repayment term and caps your monthly payments at a percentage of your discretionary income.
“In some cases, we are able to lower a payment to $0 per month,” said Swoboda. “Borrowers’ eligibility for each plan varies based on their loan type and specific financial situation. They must reapply each year to qualify, and may have reduced monthly payments for up to 25 years.”
Just be aware that income-driven repayment plans will cost you more in interest over time because the length of the loan is extended.
Pro tips from Great Lakes
I spoke with Great Lakes about the best tips for managing student loans that borrowers may not know about:
1. Repayment Planner. After logging into their online account, the Great Lakes Repayment Planner allows borrowers to play around with different payment plans.
The Repayment Planner shows them the effect a repayment plan will have on their balance and length of repayment. The best part is it shows milestones during repayment, helping borrowers set short- and long-term repayment goals.
2. Social media support. Many Great Lakes student loan borrowers know they can reach out via phone and email, but many still don’t know that they can also get assistance through social media.
The Great Lakes Facebook and Twitter pages are excellent ways to ask a question. They answer with general information that everyone can learn from. If a question becomes account specific, the question is then addressed off of social media over the phone or via email.
3. Make payments while still in school. While students aren’t required to make payments in school, interest continues to accrue on most loan types. Any payment helps bring down the interest that is building up. Great Lakes accepts payments while borrowers are still in school, as low as $10. Interest is capitalized, or added to the principal balance, when the borrower enters repayment.
Early payment saves money in two ways. First, the borrower has less to pay back when repayment begins. Second, less interest accrues for the life of the loan because the balance is lowered.
Great Lakes contact information
Need to get in touch with Great Lakes about your student loans? Don’t fret. There are numerous ways to contact them.
Office hours: Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. CT
Mailing address for general correspondence:
P.O. Box 7860
Madison, WI 53707-7860
If you have Great Lakes student loans, make sure to leverage their resources to help you pay off debt. If at any time you are having trouble making payments, get in touch with them to discuss your options.
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