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Great Lakes Student Loans Review: How to Find the Right Repayment Plan

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Great Lakes is one of the major servicers for federal student loans. While it was acquired by another student loan servicing giant, Nelnet, Great Lakes continues 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.

Great Lakes student loans review: the basics

Great Lakes primarily services federal student loans, but it also processes private student loans as well.

Whatever type of student loan you have, you’ll make payments through the Great Lakes online portal. You do this manually, though 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. 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 loan 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 qualify.

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 than what you initially borrowed at the end of your grace period.

If you want to stop your balance from growing too much while you’re in school, you could make small payments as a student. You can make payments on your Great Lakes student loans while you’re 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 online account, you’ll find a repayment planner tool that lets you play around with different repayment plans for your Great Lakes student loans.

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.

Likewise, you can use LendingTree’s student loan repayment calculator and other free tools.

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 protected]

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 March 12, 2020, Great Lakes had only one star out of a possible five for overall satisfaction. That said, dissatisfied customers may be more likely than satisfied ones to review their loan servicers online.

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 your 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 or refinancing with a private lender.

Paying off your Great Lakes student loans

Borrowers in the Class of 2019 graduated college with an average of $29,900 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.

 

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