If you took out federal student loans, it's likely you will have to deal with Great Lakes Higher Education Corp. (Great Lakes for short)—a company the federal government uses to service student loans. Out of the many student loan servicing companies, this is not the worst one to be stuck with, as it has one of the lowest number of complaints from its recipients compared to other servicers. However, like most servicers, Great Lakes still receives various grievances and has had a few class action lawsuits in the past. Read on to find out more about Great Lakes, the problems borrowers face with the company and how to switch loan servicers.
Great Lakes Student Loans Review
Great Lakes services your student loans by monitoring your school enrollment, helping you find the best repayment plan and processing your student loan payments. Based on Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) data, Great Lakes has received the lowest number of complaints compared to all other large federal loan servicers and has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
It's important to note that the company was acquired by Nelnet in 2018, which has a higher percentage of complaints per borrower. That acquisition may change the service you receive in the future. Unfortunately, even if you dislike Great Lakes, you are unable to choose or switch servicers when you take out federal loans. Your main options are to stay with the company and make on-time payments, or refinance your loan with a private lender, which will come with a new servicer.
Repayment With Great Lakes Student Loans
The easiest way to make your student loan payments with Great Lakes is to use its online portal to create an account with your personal information, including your Social Security number and date of birth. To make repayment even easier, you can sign up for automatic payments, which will automatically deduct your payment from your bank account.
With federal loan servicers, you are given eight different repayment options for your student loans. However, Great Lakes will automatically enroll you in its standard repayment plan, with fixed payments over 10 years, if you don't apply or qualify for the other repayment options. Be sure to explore the other repayment plans, as it could help you manage payments according to your budget and qualify for public service loan forgiveness (PSLF).
How to Switch to a New Student Loan Servicer
Loan servicers play a huge role in student loan repayment, which can last up to 25 years. Unfortunately, you are not able to choose your loan servicer when you get a federal student loan, which can be an issue for some borrowers. If you really don't like the loan servicer that the Department of Education assigned to you, your best option would be to consolidate your federal loans, apply for public student loan forgiveness or refinance with a private lender. Here are some of our top picks for refinancing your student loans.
Before you refinance to get away from Great Lakes: Know that refinancing a federal student loan will likely mean you'll have to pay higher interest rates and lose federal loan repayment plans and PSLF. Therefore, we don't encourage this move unless you are financially secure and can handle losing the federal loan protections and benefits.
SoFi is one of the best private lenders for students, as it offers competitive rates, good options for medical students in residency and employment assistance. If you happen to lose your job or want new employment, the lender offers career coaches and networking opportunities. SoFi loans are serviced by MOHELA, which received an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, and has few CFPB complaints.
Earnest is best for borrowers who want repayment flexibility, as it lets you set your own monthly payment and loan term. You must be able to qualify on your own, without a co-signer, and you will need a minimum credit score of 650. Loans are disbursed and serviced by Earnest, which has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. The lender was acquired by Navient, but they continue to operate as a separate companies.
Laurel Road is a good option for borrowers who want to refinance and transfer their Parent PLUS loans to their children. It is also a good lender for health professionals in residency programs, allowing you to defer full repayment until six months after your program ends. Laurel Road is also serviced by MOHELA, which has fewer CFPB complaints than Great Lakes. However, Great Lakes services more borrowers.
If a private lender does not offer a lower interest rate than you currently have, it may be best to stay with your federal loan servicer. Keep in mind that refinancing does not guarantee you will receive better service. According to a CFPB report, nonfederal student loans receive more complaints as a whole than federal student loans.
Great Lakes Customer Service and How to Submit a Complaint
If you want to file a complaint about Great Lakes, check out these websites to report an issue or problem you have with the servicer.
FSA Feedback System: You can use this federal student aid feedback system to file a complaint about your experience with the student loan servicer. You must describe the issue you are having and how you would like it to be resolved, and attach any relevant documents. The Federal Student Aid office will respond as quickly as possible to your report.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB): You can also submit a complaint with the CFPB, another government website, where 97% of consumers receive a timely response to their issue. To file a complaint, the website will ask a few questions to categorize the problem you are having and then has a section where you can describe what happened with the servicer.
Better Business Bureau (BBB): The Better Business Bureau works to resolve issues consumers are having with businesses. You can file a complaint with them, in which you must include your name, address and email with details about the issues you are having. The BBB will forward your report to the business and will ask for a response within 14 days. If the company doesn't respond, they will send another request.
If you have a specific issue that can be addressed by Great Lakes or need help with your student loan payments, you can contact the servicer by phone, email, mail or through their social media accounts. Great Lakes' social accounts are a great way to receive general information, as their Facebook page has a one-hour response time. The company also has a knowledge center with a repayment planner to find the best repayment option for your budget and answers to the most common questions they receive.
Great Lakes Contact Information
Common Problems With Great Lakes Student Loans
In comparison to other loan servicers, Great Lakes doesn't have many complaints on file with the CFPB. In our study, we found that the servicer received only 310 complaints between March 2017 and March 2018, compared to Navient's 3,599 complaints, and Great Lakes has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. Even so, the servicer has received three main complaints that clearly many borrowers have issues with. Some of the major complaints of Great Lakes include:
Trouble with how payments are being handled: Most borrower complaints have to do with payment problems, including misallocation of payments, false reporting of late payments and problems making extra payments. According to the CFPB, all issues were resolved with a timely response. But when working with any servicer, it's important to keep track of your payments each month even if you sign up for autopay.
Receiving bad information about loan: Another common complaint is that borrowers are receiving incorrect information about their loans, especially when borrowers have attempted to file for deferment and forbearance. Again, keeping track of your payments and requests are important, especially when you are trying to stop payments. It is best to contact the servicer as soon as possible when you are having issues with your account.
Can't get other flexible options for repaying loan: Borrowers are either having a hard time changing repayment plans with Great Lakes or the company hasn't switched its repayment plan properly. The best way to deal with this is to document the process of switching repayment plans, including the date you filed for switching and received confirmation. Then, you should contact Great Lakes with that information to get everything sorted out quickly.