Student Loan Servicing By Great Lakes

Wisconsin’s Student Loan Guarantor And Servicer Since 1967

Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation, usually referred to as simply “Great Lakes,” has been guaranteeing federal student loans and servicing borrowers’ accounts successfully for several decades. Great Lakes is large enough to qualify as a national provider, but has kept its operations centered in Wisconsin, with additional offices in Minnesota and South Dakota. Much of Great Lakes’ portfolio is in old Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) loans, all of which were made prior to July 1, 2010, and those loans come from the three aforementioned states plus Ohio, Iowa, Puerto Rico, and the U. S. Virgin Islands.

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Great Lakes’ primary service, also its most important function, is giving you access to your student loan account. As a guarantor of federal student loans, Great Lakes has obligations to both you and the government. All three parties in this relationship share one goal, successful repayment of your federal student loans, and Great Lakes’ corporate activities are geared toward achieving that end.

Great Lakes is also charged with enforcing federal regulations concerning your loans, so while it will help you as much as possible it will do so within certain legal constraints. One of the measures of how well Great Lakes does its job is how well you understand your choices in paying off your student loans, and over the years the company has assembled an impressive collection of clearly stated advice for the student. The Knowledge Center page is practically oriented, explaining what you need to know about how Great Lakes fits into your financial life, how to use the Great Lakes website, and how federal loan repayment works.

There are eight major categories of help topics offered in the Great Lakes Knowledge Center, and the following are examples of the most important points it discusses.

Account Access: How To Use The System

The Account Access topic covers creation of your Great Lakes account management login and tells you what steps to follow if you experience trouble signing on to see your loan data.

About Great Lakes

The About Great Lakes topic defines the terms student loan guarantor and student loan servicer, because Great Lakes performs both tasks. As guarantor, it acts as one of many managing agents for the FFELP. As servicer, it performs the interface operations so you can control your loan accounts. Educational outreach to make sure borrowers understand the loan process is part of both functions.

Under this heading, Great Lakes mentions a very important reference for direct information about your federal loans, the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). If you create an NSLDS account, you can see all your federal Title IV financial aid data gathered in one place.

About Student Loans

Many students have taken out federal loans recommended to them by their school’s financial aid office without understanding exactly what types of loans they’re using, or why those loans rather than others were chosen for them. The About Student Loans section gives a little introduction to the Direct loans which most students receive, explaining the differences among subsidized, unsubsidized, and PLUS loans.

There’s an explanation of when you must pay the interest on your loan and several paragraphs on changes in loan status that trigger required repayment. In general, enrollment of at least half-time means repayment is not mandatory, although if your loan is unsubsidized choosing not to pay interest will add that interest to the principal balance of your loan. You can find more on types of federal loans here.

Making a Payment

The Making a Payment section answers specific questions on the mechanics of payments. Examples of these answers include how to pay while still in school, using credit and debit cards to pay, how to permit a trusted third party to access to your Great Lakes account, how payments are applied, and changing the date on which your payment is due.

Trouble Making Payments? and Past Due Payments

As you might expect, these two topics dealing with payment problems are especially lengthy, because if a borrower has asked no other questions during the life of the account that will have to change if payments cannot be made as agreed. There are ways to build some flexibility into your payment arrangements, and part of Great Lakes’ mission is to help you protect your credit while they recover the federal government’s loan money, but unless you talk to Great Lakes at the first sign of difficulty you run the risk of not receiving all the help you would otherwise.

As your guarantor and loan servicer, Great Lakes must always hear what’s going on directly from you or your representative, but you can prepare yourself for such a conversation by familiarizing yourself with these two topics.

Service Member Benefits and 1098-E Student Loan Interest Statements

These two topics contain information on how to manage your account while on active military service and how to obtain a IRS form that reports your deductible interest. While less generally applicable, those are still essential pieces of information.