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Frustrated with Great Lakes!

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I mentioned several months ago that my Stafford Loans were transferred to Great Lakes for servicing.  Pay close attention, because this will be one of the only times you’ll ever hear me saying the government did something better.

I have 2 categories of Stafford Loans, subsidized and unsubsidized.  Under each category, I took 2 individual loans during school, for a total of 4 loans.  With me so far?

When the loans were serviced directly by the Department of Education, they were arranged into “groups,” and payments were calculated and applied to each group.  You could pay extra on any group you wanted, right online, point and click.  I could also rearrange the loans into groups in whatever fashion I desired.  This was helpful, because I could break out one individual loan into its own group and snowball that loan with extra payments.  You could always see the balance, principal, and interest on each loan or loan group, payments were applied within a day or two.  It was very easy.

Since my loans were transferred to Great Lakes, the online experience has been decidedly lacking.  The online portal only shows the total balance off all loans.  You can see that there are subsidized and unsubsidized loans rolling up but you can’t do anything with those “sub-loans” online.  Furthermore, the individual loans that made up the 2 groups are now completely gone online.  If I want to apply a payment to one of the four individual loans, I have to call in to customer service.  The automated phone attendant makes me enter in about 6 pieces of information and then wait on hold for a rep.

Then, the kicker – the customer service has been so frustrating!  Since my subsidized loans had smaller balances, I wanted to attack those first.  Every time I tried to do this, the rep would argue with me – “Most people want to pay down their unsubsidized balance first.”  I understand why they say this, but I have to tell them 4 times that I am paying off the smallest balance first.  (Truthfully, the unsubsidized vs. subsidized decision doesn’t make a difference for me anymore – only if I lose my job and qualify for a deferral).  Then, they take the payment over the phone, and it takes about a week to apply to the balance, but it spreads the payment across all the loans.  At this point, a human has to intervene and re-apply the payment to the individual loan I requested.  That results in another 4 day wait and sometimes another follow up phone call.  Lately, they want to argue with me, “Why do you want to apply to a single loan – they are all the same interest rate!”  2 reasons: because it’s more motivating to attack a $9000 balance than a big hairy $20k balance.  And because each loan I eliminate lowers the monthly payment required in case we get in a situation where we are only able to make minimum payments (but only if I call in and ask them to recalculate the payment).

So – if you have any choice in the matter, avoid Great Lakes as a loan servicer!  I will be stuck with them for a while since they have both my Stafford and my Discover loans.  Ugh.  Can’t wait to get rid of these guys.

 

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69 Comments

  • Reply debbie |

    I have great lakes for my student loans. I really don’t have any issues with them. But I am not snowballing any payments to them at the moment. I have my regular monthly payment, and 15 thousand in loans. I’m down to 13 and change with what I owe. It’s a challenge, but I can do it. I am debt free with the exception of this student loan and my mortgage.

    • Reply Sylvia |

      The issue for me is: it is more cost effective to pay the individual loans with the highest interest rates first. Great Lakes does NOT make this option readily available, assuming that they are trying to make more money.

      I just want to be able to make a payment specifically for one loan with the highest interest rate.

      Is there any way I can acquire another servicer that allows me to do this?

      • Reply Nola |

        Hi Sylvia, I’ve got good news, Great Lakes does allow you to do this for any extra payments you make! Like with mortgages, or credit cards first you must make the minimum payment so that you don’t fall behind. After that, all it takes is an email or phone call to let us know how to apply that extra payment. You can learn more here:https://www.mygreatlakes.org/educate/knowledge-center/how-payments-are-applied.html

        Let me know if you have any questions.

        Nola
        Great Lakes Social Media Specialist

        • Reply yASHIRA MARRERO |

          my loans on in deferment and i am still paying money per week. I just recently noticed that for the last 5 payments they adjusted the principal balance and added more interest. I know the interest that was when i made the payment. They are dirty

  • Reply jp |

    All the more motivation to pay those suckers off!! Yay! Every time you make an extra payment, that’s less interest THEY earn – stick it to the man 🙂

    • Reply emmi |

      Came to say this. If you ever feel weak. Ever feel like not following the budget. Just think of having to call Great Lakes yet again.

      Have you written a letter to Great Lakes management explaining how much worse their system is than you expected?

  • Reply Joe |

    Maybe even more motivation to take the “windfall” from a few posts back to knock out one of those loans alright — just one phone call! (haha)

    Seriously, that sounds awful…

  • Reply Jessica |

    I have Great Lakes servicing half of my loans too…I’ve never really had any problems with them, but maybe that’s because Sallie Mae is servicing the rest of my loans, so any problems Great Lakes may give me pale in comparison to the horrible-ness of Sallie Mae. Seriously though, having to make phone calls to loan servicers is one of the TOP reasons I want to knock my student loans out QUICKLY.

    • Reply Adam |

      I agree! I think after we get one more “sub-loan” paid off, the online portal should be sufficient to apply payments. They’ve always been nice enough and done what I requested. It’s no Bank of America, that’s for sure. My greatest frustration is navigating the phone tree when I call in. It takes forever to enter my information, and then the rep verifies it every single time before they will do anything else.

  • Reply Katrina |

    Never had an issue with Great Lakes. But I only have a single loan with them. One thing I did find out is once every 12 months or so (not sure on the exact waiting period) you can request for them to recalculate your monthly payment. In this way, if you are snowballing a large loan you can still get the minimum payment reduced partially. But watch out, because sometimes they will do this automatically also!

    My original loan was ~50k @ 525/month. I paid in my bonuses down to 30k and the variable interest rate had also dropped. When I was unemployed, based on the amount I had paid extra they lowered my required minimum payment. Helpful in a time of need.

    • Reply Adam |

      Yes, I recently requested them to recalculate the payment. I think as individual loans get paid off, this would be helpful because it frees up a bit more of the snowball payment to go toward principal instead of minimums – and like you said, lowers the payment in case of a period of financial difficulty.

  • Reply Great Lakes |

    Hi Adam,

    I’m sorry that this has been frustrating for you. Our default method of applying payments is what what the lender (Department of Education) requires us to do. As you’ve learned, we can change the application of extra payments if you request it. If you don’t want to sit through the phone tree, you could also send us an email after you submit an online payment with your payment application instructions. It will take a few days to process it, but it will be credited on the date that the payment was made.

    You can use our Contact Us page to email us, and choose “One-time online and Auto Pay payments” as the topic.

    Finally, I’m not sure if you have Auto Pay set up for your minimum payments, but if you don’t, signing up will get you a .25% interest rate reduction on your federal student loans.

    I hope this helps. Congratulations on all of your loan payoff so far!

    -Liz
    Great Lakes Social Media Strategist.

    • Reply Adam |

      Thank you for reaching out Liz! Didn’t take you long to find this!
      I also submitted my suggestions via the survey/suggestion box on the website. I hope the product development team will take a serious look at this. Of course these suggestions make it easier for customers to pay off their loans faster and pay less interest, so they may not be the top priority. You may be able to buy the rights to the code from the department of education.

      Thank you for your suggestion to email payment instructions. I will explore this option. It would be nice if the phone tree was simpler as well.

      I do have the .25% reduction with Auto Pay set up. The Dept. of Education website actually allowed you to specify an extra auto-pay amount – does Great Lakes allow this as well?

      • Reply Great Lakes |

        Thanks for taking the time to complete the website survey. We review those comments every month and take them very seriously. As you can see, we also listen actively on social media, so I’ll pass your blog post on to folks that can take your suggestions under consideration.

        You can definitely change your Auto Pay amount. It can never go lower than the minimum payment, but you can increase it as much as you like. You can modify that amount in the Auto Pay settings when you’re logged into our site.

        Feel free to reach out to us if you have any further questions. You know how to reach us on the phone, but we’re also on Facebook (FB.com/MyGreatLakes) and Twitter (@MyGreatLakes).

        -Liz

    • Reply Gloria |

      After reading this blog I did what Liz suggested about writing to Great Lakes since I want to make an additional payment to my loan. I want to repay the loan quicker by having an additional payment applied to the principal but the answer was No, first interest etc. That’s a bummer…I wish I could save some money on the interest

  • Reply Roc Away Debt |

    I just posted a very similar rant-post regarding Mohela giving us the run around to stop the “automatic advancement” of the due date every time we pay extra on our federal student loans. It’s beyond frustrating dealing with these companies sometime! Although I’m impressed that Great Lakes reached out to you via the blog comments!

  • Reply Hilary |

    Hi. I know this post is a few months old, but I just thought of you as I am thinking of consolidating 2 college loans that add up to just under $10,000 at 4.25% through Sallie Mae. Do you have a consolidation company you would recommend? I know you are not a PF advisor, I just was asking “as a friend!” Thanks!

  • Reply Emerson |

    Ugh I have this company for 2 student loans and I hate them. I set up the monthly autopay and it didn’t work for the first 4 months or so. Then it worked for a few months until suddenly they recalculated my loans (I was paid ahead by 3 years so they spread the remaining loan amount out over 10 more years instead of showing I was paid ahead) and changed the due date, autopayment date, autopayment amount, etc. and who pays interest for all of their mistakes? Why me of course. The customer service is horrible. I called and they accused me of changing everything and refused to change it all back. I had to call over and over until finally one lady threw a fit and transferred me to someone who fixed it. Well now it’s all messed up again because they skipped a month of autopayment for no reason. There is money in my bank account so that’s not the problem. Not to mention that even when all goes well it takes them well over a week to accept an online payment (more interest that I pay while they sit on the money). Hate them.

    • Reply Great Lakes |

      Emerson,

      I’m sorry you’ve had a frustrating experience with us. What you describe doesn’t sound like something that should be happening. Could you email your Great Lakes ID to me at socialmedai@glhec.org? It’s the number that appears on the left side of the screen when you log into our website, or at the bottom of emails and letters we send.

      Regarding payment applications; just so you know, while your online payment may take up to 5 business days to process, it is credited to your account on the date you submitted it (or the next business day if it was submitted after 5:00 p.m. Central Time).

      Please follow up with me so I can look into this.

      Liz
      Great Lakes Social Media Strategist

      • Reply Kristin |

        Liz, if you’re still reading this, my husband has loans through Great Lakes, and we are both VERY concerned about being trapped in “pay ahead status” indefinitely. Currently, we are in IBR, but we think our loans will revert back to the minimum owed under the standard plan at the beginning of the IBR period. We anticipate our minimum payment on the high-interest, high-principle grad school loans to be $675/month. We would like to pay $1000/month, but we DO NOT want the overpayments to be applied to future payments. We know that accrued interest will be paid off first. After that, we would like ALL of the additional money to go toward paying down principle IMMEDIATELY. Is this possible? We also have a small undergrad loan with a relatively low interest rate. We would like to pay only the minimum on this loan. The minimum payment on that loan will not eliminate currently accrued interest. Will any overpayment we make on the grad school loan be applied to the undergrad interest before being applied to the principle on the graduate loan?

        • Reply Great Lakes |

          Kristin,

          We never apply payments to future interest/payments. Paid ahead status simply means that you’ve met the minimum monthly payment requirement until a date in the future. If something happens, and you’re unable to make a minimum payment while you’re paid ahead, you wouldn’t be considered late. If you continue to make monthly payments while you’re paid ahead, you’ll end up paying off the loan early.

          Based on what you’ve said here, I think your payments will be automatically applied in the order that you wish. However, I can’t know that for sure without looking into your account. This page on our website (recently updated) should help answer your questions: https://www.mygreatlakes.org/educate/knowledge-center/how-payments-are-applied.html

          If you have additional questions, I encourage you or your husband to contact us via phone/email to discuss the specifics of your account: https://www.mygreatlakes.org/educate/contactUs/home.html

          Liz
          Great Lakes Social Media Strategist

  • Reply Gloria |

    After reading this blog I did what Liz suggested about writing to Great Lakes since I want to make an additional payment to my loan. I want to repay the loan quicker by having an additional payment applied to the principal but the answer was No, first interest etc. That’s a bummer…I wish I could save some money on the interest

    • Reply Great Lakes |

      Gloria,

      If there is interest accrued on your account, we are required to first apply payments to that interest. Once that interest is paid, we apply payments as described here: https://www.mygreatlakes.org/educate/knowledge-center/how-payments-are-applied.html

      In some instances we can change how payments are applied, but that generally applies only to which loan principal payments are applied to after accrued interest payments have been paid. All accrued interest must be paid before principal payments are applied. Note that this only applies to interest that has already accrued. You’ll never be paying in advance for interest that may accrue in the future.

      -Liz

  • Reply Katherine |

    Liz,
    I have the same exact problem as Adam and I completely agree that in this case, the government does a MUCH better job in allowing us to specify the buckets to apply the payments. I just got off the phone with Great Lakes and the customer service representative just kept repeating “first and foremost, when you make additional payments you have to…” and treated me very rudely then hung up the phone on me. I had to call back and another representative told me that I have to call every time I make an additional payment and that even then they can not guarantee that it will be applied correctly!!! All I want to do is make additional payments to lower the loans at the higher rate. Great Lakes needs to really work on improving their customer service. I dread calling because the agents are rude and unwilling to help. I hope you are still reading these comments because so far you are only positive thing about Great Lakes.

  • Reply Great Lakes |

    Hi Katherine,

    I apologize that you haven’t been receiving the level of customer service you expect from Great Lakes. If you’d like to send me an email with your Great Lakes ID (the number on the left side of the screen when you log in, or at the bottom of emails and letters we send), and the approximate date/time of the situation you’re describing, I can log your complaint.

    Regarding payment application, our default method of applying regular monthly payments follows the rules thatthe Department of Education has given us. When you’re making additional payments, you have options. This article on our website details how we would apply your payment in different scenarios (https://www.mygreatlakes.org/educate/knowledge-center/how-payments-are-applied.html). If you’d like your payment applied differently, you do need to give us instructions along with each payment. That doesn’t have to entail a phone call—we actually encourage you to use the email contact form here: https://www.mygreatlakes.org/borrower/contactUs.html

    Be sure to send that email after (not before) you submit your payment. We’ll make the change retroactive to the date your payment was applied.

    I hope that helps. Again, please follow up with me at socialmedia@glhec.org if you’d like me to log a complaint about your previous interactions with customer service.

    -Liz

  • Reply Elizabeth |

    My first payment on my student loans with Great Lakes was yesterday. I spent over 2 hours on the phone with 3 different customer service representatives and nobody could give me a straight answer. I was trying to pay my monthly payment and then pay off 2 of my unsubsidized loans (which total almost $13,000.00) The first thing that was frustrating was that online I can only see group unsubsidized and subsidized loans at each interest rate. There is no way to view each individual loan without calling and getting token numbers. This means that without calling there is no way to view exactly the amount my loans have grown to, and no way to see a current pay off amount. It does not need to be so confusing and hidden. I also have loans with Alaska Commission of Postsecondary Education. They are amazing. I go online and I can view each loan simply displayed in a table with its ID number, the amount I originally borrowed, interest rate, interest accrued, pay off amount and how much the loan is at today. I called them to pay off a loan and it took me less than 7 minutes and I was able to look at the numbers on my screen and make sense of what EXACTLY I was paying. My attempts to do the same with Great Lakes took me over 2 hours and three different people, who ultimately told me to call back the nextday and ask for a numbers analysist since they couldn’t figure out exactly the amount I need to pay. One customer service rep told me I needed to pay the Accrued interest and then I would be paying on the principle in the original amount I borrowed; which can’t be accurate because they are UNSUBSIDIZED loans from 4-5 years ago. Another person told me that if I just payed $13,000 instead of $12,500 he could guarantee the balance would be payed off. NONE of them could give me exact numbers. All I wanted was the pay off amount on two specific loans so I could calculate it myself in addition to my monthly payment accrued interest. I wouldn’t even need the person on the other line if I could view it in my online account or paper statement!
    Why do you people make it so difficult for me to give you money???? Oh that’s right, because if I pay on the principle I owe you less monthly in interest. Well I can now say that I am bound and determined to find a different lender to guy out Great Lakes so I don’t have to deal with them any longer. In addition to that I will make sure at every chance possible to tell people to run in the other direction before dealing with Great Lakes.

    • Reply Katherine |

      @Elizabeth,

      If you can figure out how to get another company to by out your loans, PLEASE post it here. I would love to not have not deal with Great Lakes anymore!

      @Liz
      Thanks but to be honest, I think the issue at hand is much larger than a complaint, the bottom line is that Great Lakes does not have good level professional standards. If your organization had better management then we would not be complaining about the incompetence and disrespect demonstrated by your customer service department.

      I will send the email after the payment because I have not other option. However, sending in an email for Great Lakes to manually retroactively change my payment application to match my specifications makes me uncomfortable. The reason is that I do not have confidence in your company to do it correctly. I will have to wait X number of days for it to be posted so that I can recalculate the payment and confirm that is was correctly applied. It feels like the reason Great Lakes makes things so difficult is because you want to set up barriers so it lakes longer for us to make additional payments. Your mission seems to be to not allow us to easily make extra payments because you lose money. In reference to Elizabeth’s email above, all I have to say is your company lacks transparency and It worries me.

      Sorry for my rant but Thank you for trying.
      -K

    • Reply Pete |

      @Elizabeth- did you ask if Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education would buy your Great Lakes debt? I am in a similar situation with some Great Lakes debt and ACPE. Going to send an inquiry to ACPE.

      Just made a payment tonight and sent the email to direct extra funds to be applied to my highest interest unsub Stafford. We’ll see how it pans out.

  • Reply Great Lakes |

    @Katherine no need to apologize for the rant, we appreciate customer feedback so we can continually improve. Thank you for allowing me to help you with this issue.

    I know sending an email each time can be tedious but maybe a quick explanation as to the why might help? Because we only service the loans, the contracts made by the lenders require us to apply the payment in the way we do by default. We really do try to adjust payments based on our customers’ expectations; unfortunately that adjustment has to be done manually, after each payment that needs to be applied differently.

    If you send in the email, it will take a few days but we will update your account with the correct payment, the correct interest and the correct placement of additional funds per your instruction. Should you have any other questions, need assistance with an issue or need to let us know what we could be doing better please feel welcome to reach out.

    ~Nola
    Great Lakes Social Media Specialist

  • Reply Elle |

    My husband and I are currently paying off his loans that we have through Great Lakes. We originally had about 6K with AES and their system was much easier to navigate and pay off the separate loans. Now, even though we have varying interest rates and pay out dates of loans, they are grouped together in Graduate Plus or non Grad Plus and all the accrued interest is put together on these loans. So even though we’d like to pay off our 7.9% loans faster, we have to pay off the accrued interest on the 6.41% loans first because they are all Graduate Plus. This is stupid and such an inefficient way of paying back loans. Great Lakes told us there’s no way around it either. I can only hope our loans are acquired by someone better when Great Lakes goes under because nobody can pay off their loans with such a horrible system.

  • Reply Katherine |

    @Elle, I used to have the same frustration as you. Turns out you can request to have your loans ungrouped which allow you to choose how to make your payments. I have multiple loans with them, some for 5%, 3% and 6.8% grouped together. I had my loans ungrouped to have all my 6.8% loans together in one group and the rest in a second group. I have 2 groups with 2 monthly auto-pay payments on the same day or I can even choose to make them on different days if I want. I go in every week and pay a little more on my 6.8% loans hoping to pay them off as soon as possible. Thanks to this, I don’t have to send emails to indicate how I want my payments applied or call their very rude customer service representatives.
    They have a new website look they are working on, some things are good some are not.
    Go to: https://www.mygreatlakes.org/educate/
    After you log in go to->my account -> Payment Schedules ->Term and Conditions -> View terms and condition.

    you will see this:
    “Ungrouping Loan Accounts
    An account may include multiple loans but will have a single payment. If you want each loan to have a separate payment, each loan must be in a separate account. Contact us if you want each loan in a separate account and we’ll separate them.”

    I called in and in about a week it was all set. The person I spoke to was a manager and he was by far the most pleasant person I have talked to when calling Great Lakes. I’m sure you already know that they have terrible customer service. I hope this helps you and any other person out there who has had the unfortunate luck of dealing with this company. Please do not let one of their reps tell you it cannot be done.

    Good luck and hope this helps.

    -K

    • Reply Elle |

      Oh I wonder if the issue is that we are still in early prepayment. We were married this summer and I am now able to make consistent payments on his account even though he still has 6 months till graduation. When I follow your directions to get to the Terms and Conditions nothing is available on the Payment Schedule page because we don’t have any schedules yet. We’re going to try and call again anyways because it would really help to have our groupings changed.

  • Reply Ray |

    Great Lakes told me that if the account is split into five separate accounts, one for each loan, then the required monthly payment amounts will be greater. Why would that be true?

  • Reply Katherine |

    Ray, they said that to me too. It is probably because it will be 5 different payments and it may average out that way. I told them to do it anyway and it turns out that it was $15 lower because I was ahead with my payments. Good luck Ray 🙂

    • Reply Ray |

      They said it was because there is a minimum payment of $50 on each account. That is a very minor consideration.

  • Reply Katherine |

    Ray, I remember them saying the same thing to me. They even asked me “are you sure you want to do this? Because it’s not a simple thing to do.” I told them to split the loans in two groups, all my 6.8% in one and the rest in the second group. Once I pay off the 6.8%, I will have them separate the next highest interest loan and so on. If you don’t like the possibility of a higher payment, I would separate them in maybe 3 groups instead of 5; although, I doubt the payments would be significantly higher. The bottom line is that Great Lakes likes to create barriers because the longer it takes you to pay your loans, the more money they make.

  • Reply Mike |

    I too made an extra payment and had nothing but problems. I have already made my minimum for the month (I’m actually “paid ahead” four months). So I threw an extra payment on one of my three loans serviced by Great Lakes. Per the policy on the website that the “damage control” representative keeps referring to, my extra payment will pay off the accrued interest first then the loan with the highest % next. So the payment got split between the two loans with different interest rates. I call GL and ask why it was not done per the policy set forth by the federal….. . She said I dunno maybe the computer didn’t catch it. I said really? I have been doing this for three years! (shame on me, this is the first time I paid close attention to see if the payment was applied correctly). So I said, well I need you to go back and check it, and fix three years worth of your computers mistake. She replied I can only go back one year and check how payments were applied. I was like no no no. We are talking about daily compounding interest, the most powerful force in the universe. She then just parroted back to me that she can only go back one year. I think it’s time to get management involved. This company is great at the smoke and mirrors game. If you deal with them watch your back.

    • Reply Great Lakes |

      Hi Mike,

      I’d like to look into this for you. If you wouldn’t mind emailing your Great Lakes Id to socialmedia@glhec.org I can figure out whats going on with this. It appears on the left side of the screen after logging into our website, and on the bottom of letters & emails we send. Once I have that information, I’ll make sure we follow up on this.

      ~Nola
      Great Lakes Social Media Specialist

  • Reply Mike |

    Nola

    I called this morning asking for you but the customer service rep was unaware your department. Fortunately for me this rep was 300% more helpful than the first. He precisely understood the issue I was having and was able to answer my questions very clearly and explain what to do so it doesn’t happen in the future. Thanks for wanting to help but I think I have it cleared up. As mentioned by the OP. It is not the most user friendly way to make extra payments compared to other loan servicers but it I now know it can be done.

  • Reply Great Lakes |

    Mike,

    I’m glad you were able to get the assistance you needed. Here if you have any other questions.

    Thanks for the update,

    Nola
    Great Lakes Social Media Specialist

  • Reply Chris |

    It’s funny how Great Lakes responds to these posts but i am still waiting on them to respond to the CFPB complaint I filed. I only recently discovered my “extra” payments are not applied to highest interest rate accounts, as their website erroneously states. Extra payments only go to highest interest rate loans only when its done in a lump sum and only for the amount over your monthly minimum payment(despite the fact you may be paid ahead by years). I have probably paid hundreds in extra interest due to this. YOU ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO HAVE YOUR LOANS UN-GROUPED IMMEDIATELY SO YOU CAN SEE YOUR PAYMENTS ARE ACTUALLY BEING APPLIED.

    • Reply Great Lakes |

      Hi Chris,

      The CFPB only handles complaints for private student loans. If you have a complaint related to a federal student loan, you can submit it on our website (link below) and we will follow up with you as soon as possible. If you have not yet called us (1-800-236-4300) and asked for us to look into your account, I’d suggest doing that first. If you are still unsatisfied, you can file the complaint form.

      https://www.mygreatlakes.org/educate/contactUs/home.html – click the “File A Complaint” tab

      Liz
      Great Lakes Social Media Strategist

  • Reply araya |

    Unfortunately, I have racked up over $100,000 dollars in loans from Great Lakes and I have cut them down to $45K. I was always paying more than the minimum payment, but now after reading the blog. I was able to start paying off the individual tokens. With that being said, I didn’t have issues with Great Lakes before. But, since I have been making huge payments of $4K/month paying off my tokens individually (2 down 6 more to go) I have started seeing the issues and the resistance. I knew there was a better way to pay these things off, but when I started researching I realized the way they apply those payments will have you paying these loans off FOREVER. What bothers me is that they continue to say well it doesn’t matter how it is applied since it is the same interest rate. That is a BOGUS lie and don’t let them convince you otherwise. So I asked the agent, “If I am making a $4000 payment why do I still have a token with $2500 attached to it? Does that make sense?” She couldn’t answer. Exactly. They LOVE sending out emails about making extra payments, but their system isn’t setup to handle extra payments unless you go by their “way”. You shouldn’t have to wait 3-5 days to for them to update your account, when it takes a day for a regular payment to go through. I have now been waiting 11 business days for them to update a payment from March. I have called them several times (at least 5) and now I have to wait until April 21st, by then I will have made 2 more payments and have to cycle around again. This is what the media needs to talk about. Those of us who are trying to pay these things off are running into roadblocks. Great Lakes just updated their online system not too long ago. Why wasn’t the site updated to have the option of a detailed screen of your tokens when making a payment so that you could state upfront how you want your extra payments to be applied? I am not even going to touch on how the interest rates have been slowly increasing without any notification and “coincidentally” when I started making my huge payments each month… How convenient eh? One thing is for sure my daughter won’t be dealing with student loans it’s a WRAP for that. We’re working blood, sweat, and tears before she is even old enough to make sure she doesn’t.

    • Reply Great Lakes |

      Hi Araya,

      I’m sorry to hear you’re frustrated with applying your extra payments. I understand you’ve been having a hard time getting more information via phone. If you’d like, I can look into this for you. If you send me an email (socialmedia@glhec.org) with your Great Lakes ID number, I’ll try to find some answers for you.

      -Lindsey
      Social Media Specialist

  • Reply Bhavna |

    I just left my grace period a few months ago, with over $60,000 in loans. I work for a non-profit hospital, and am looking at the eligibility requirements for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. I haven’t submitted the employment certification form yet, so I’m still with Great Lakes.
    Right now, I’m on IBR. I’ve already paid my monthly payment for this month, but I want to make an extra payment that is larger than my monthly payment. I looked at the Great Lakes website, and I know it says that for my situation, my account will say ‘paid ahead’.
    However, for PSLF, payments I make while my account is ‘paid ahead’ will not count, according to the information on studentaid.ed.gov.
    Is it possible for me to make one-time payments without getting ‘paid ahead’ on my account?
    I really want to understand my options here. On one hand, I would like to pay off my loans as quickly as possible so I can pay less in interest and not have to think about them for as long (and reduce my stress!). On the other hand, I don’t want to make myself ineligible, or make so many months of payments ineligible, for PSLF. If I’m still making payments in 10 years, I would like to have the rest of that forgiven.

  • Reply Great Lakes |

    Hi Bhavna,

    If you make payments toward your loan and you find yourself in paid ahead status, there is no way to avoid going into this status. Because PSLF requires 120 months of payments before you qualify for forgiveness, that first extra payment that allows you to be paid ahead will not count toward forgiveness. However, if you continue to make payments while in the paid ahead status, those payments will count as you monthly payments and go toward your forgiveness program. Hope this helps, here if you have other questions.

    Nola
    Great Lakes Social Media Specialist

    • Reply Bhavna |

      Hi Nola,

      Thank you for your help with this. I’m still a bit confused though. I’m looking at information about PSLF on the studentaid.ed.gov website (https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/sites/default/files/public-service-loan-forgiveness-common-questions.pdf), where they say on page 3 ‘If you make subsequent payments while your account is “paid ahead”, those payments will not count toward PSLF. If you request that your extra payment amount not be applied to future scheduled payments, the
      excess amount will not advance the due date of your next scheduled payment, and any subsequent monthly payments you make (if otherwise qualifying) will count toward the required 120 payments.’
      Based off of this and the information you provided, it sounds like Great Lakes and the Department of Education have different definitions of ‘paid ahead’. Can you clarify this? Specifically, if I make the extra payment, will the due date of my next scheduled payment be advanced? Or will I still have a regular monthly payment due?

      Thanks for your help!
      Bhavna

  • Reply Great Lakes |

    Hi Bhavna,

    In order to get clarification on this, I suggest contacting the servicer that manages the program. Feel welcome to reach out to FedLoans and they will be able to assist you with this and all other questions you have on this PSLF.I have included their contact information below.

    1-800-699-2908 Monday through Friday 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM (ET).
    http://www.myfedloan.org/

    Thanks!

    Nola
    Social Media Specialist

  • Reply Kristin |

    We have had such a bad experience with Great Lakes over this exact issue. I have told these idiots time and time again that I want our overpayments to be applied and then the payment to be recalculated so that we can lower our monthly payment. We are trying to qualify for a mortgage, and we need to lower our DTI. We have enough to pay off the entire balance today, but we need some of that money for a downpayment and closing costs on a house. They will not let us lower our payments, no matter what we say or do!! This should be illegal! WE DO NOT WANT TO BE IN PAID AHEAD STATUS!!!!

    Our only option at this point is to refinance with a private lender. My husband has $57,000 in student loans, mostly at 6.8%, and he makes $114,000 per year. Both of our FICOs are in the 800s!. We can get a mortgage on a $400,000 house at 4%, but my husband’s student loans are stuck at 6.8% forever, and now they won’t even allow him to reduce our DTI by recalculating our payments? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME. Hello SoFi. Goodbye Great Lakes! I hope you get your pants sued off someday for jerking people around like this.

  • Reply Courtney |

    @Kristin – we just bought a house, both make plenty and I am the only one with student loans, so I hear ya! This place is killing me – hope you ended up being able to resolve your issues.

    I’m in the midst of trying to consolidate with a private local bank to lower interest rates on these and my private loans and have them all through one place. I called Great Lakes before the holiday weekend and received the token numbers from a representative over the phone. There was some confusion with the local bank and they need a letter confirming those token numbers. Fast forward to today, I called Great Lakes and they suddenly have no idea why I got those token numbers over the phone as they “don’t forward any information about token numbers.” So HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO CONSOLIDATE?? Oh with you guys? ABSOLUTELY NOT. They told this local bank to have my call in and get the token numbers sent over too. Talk about lack of transparency.

    Any of the Great Lakes customer service people can feel free to weigh in. Meanwhile I have my token numbers and payoff balances on hand and am powerless to use them.

  • Reply Great Lakes |

    Hi Courtney,

    I’m sorry you had this experience but I’d like to help. If you send your Great Lakes id# to socialmedia@glhec.org I can help you to get the information you need in order to proceed.

    Nola
    Social Media Specialist

  • Reply Shaun |

    Has anyone been able to negotiate a pay off settlement with Great Lakes? My father-in-law offered to help me pay off my student loan with a personal loan with 0% interest but he asked me to get a settlement first. I called Great Lakes today asking to speak with someone authorized to discuss a lump sum payment settlement and they told me that it wasn’t possible. Really? Anyone else had this same experience or better luck than me?

  • Reply Elle |

    I’m going to comment on this post again as a follow up to my experience with Great Lakes.

    My husband has a large outstanding debt serviced by Great Lakes. We wanted to start paying the smallest loans off first (snowball) while he was still in school since I had a paying job. Unfortunately his loans, even the 2K one I wanted to pay off, were all grouped in a big large heap. God forbid that you attempt to ungroup your loans when you aren’t in repayment! It took us more than six months, calls with dozens of different representatives, and having to curse out several of them and get to their superiors by the time we were able to ungroup our loans. I’d say 99% of the people who work at Great Lakes are incredibly incompetent and can’t think for themselves beyond what is listed on a quick search of the site. All representatives will act like it is impossible to ungroup your loans even though it is in their policies that they will ungroup loans if requested. Don’t let them play dumb on you.

    Next, Great Lakes will not apply any extra payments to principal while you still have accrued interest. They don’t do loan amortization like a lot of private servicers do. And once you’ve made an extra payment the website will list it as paid ahead instead of making you continue your monthly payments after the extra payment. We’re currently paid ahead until 2045 which doesn’t make sense since our loan is not a 30 year loan.

    We hate working with this servicer and are doing all we can to repay back our loans, not only to save money, but so we don’t have to work with Great Lakes ever again. The moment our federal loans get to a manageable amount we are refinancing to get away from this company. Good luck to all others who have to suffer through their representatives in the meantime – hopefully we won’t have to call for a couple more years.

    • Reply Elle |

      And another comment on Great Lakes, the representatives will act like they are financial experts on the phone when trying to find the reason why you want to do things like ungroup loans. I have had multiple representatives say it is pointless for me to ungroup three loans (115K, 20K, and 2K) in order to pay the 2K loan off immediately since “they all have the same interest rate”. So I have to spend 10 years with the 2K loan accruing interest simply because your representatives are too lazy to submit a report to ungroup the loans?

      You aren’t financial advisers and shouldn’t try to give advice acting like you are.

  • Reply Ed |

    Great Lakes has been terrible to deal with. Greatlakes have made it so difficult to pay down the highest interest rate loans first. I do not believe Greatlakes statement below: “Our default method of applying payments is what what the lender (Department of Education) requires us to do.” is accurate as I am able to specify exact where my payment is be applied to at at time on DOE’s MYFEDLOAN.ORG.

    Greatlakes is now changing their web site to to give an appearance of proper paymeny options, but Greatlakes still takes a portion of your directed payment and applies the to a lower interest loan that is not due yet.

    A class action suit will correct this problem and give refunds to those affected.

  • Reply Chris |

    Ed, thats the exact same thing I was upset about. At the time I made my complaint, the website was MISLEADING one to believe payments are being applied to the lowest rate first. Nowhere does it state on the site that it is being applied evenly, instead of by interest rate. I learned the CFPB was no help as the government is protecting these guys and doesn’t treat them like a normal business. I was really disappointed in the government, they pick and chose who they want to go after but they are not looking out for the consumer.

    I looked into a class action lawsuit a while back — I didn’t have any luck — but i only consulted lawyers online. I think its a route work pursuing further. The misleading practices need to stop. If it cost me hundreds to thousands in interest I can’t imagine how much these guys are stealing in aggregate.

  • Reply Virginia |

    I hate great lakes. I have paid them $15,000 and my original $25,000 loan has only decreased to $22,000!!! I’ve been out of school, paying them consistently over $220 on time every month for 7 years. This past year i moved and was out of work for two months, i called and asked them for a short temporary deferment or forbearance. The witch on the other end of the line said i was not eligible for any sort of payment deferrment and then proceeded to interrogate me about how i had managed to make previous payments and telling me i should borrow the money from someone. I will be paying them money for nothing for the rest of my life.

    • Reply BELINDA AN MARTINEZ |

      Virginia, same here. About 10 years in repayment and my loan went up from 37k to almost 42k. Deferrments/forbearances are nothing but a trap…the interests is incredibily high and if you are late only a few days, they charge you interest on that too. I have not defaulted on my loan, but it looks like i will never repay it. How unfortunate for all, especially those who struggle, as there are too many companies such as mygreatlakes that make it impossible for folks to pay off their loans.

  • Reply Rob |

    Adam, – I just started repaying my wife’s student loans through My Great Lakes and couldn’t express this any better. We are also snowballing the lowest debt first. Their system makes this extremely difficult and confusing.

    On 11/12/2016, an auto payment of $255 applied the minimum payments to all of her loans. One of her loans was then almost paid off, with just $130 left to go.

    On 11/13/2016, we made a payment of $130 and setup the “Excess payment” to go 100% towards the $130 loan to pay it off. Instead, their system went through and dispersed the $130 across all her loans.

    According to their system, you have to make the minimum payments for each billing cycle before any “excess payments” are applied.

    If we waited until 12/12/2016 for the next auto payment, the excess payments would finally be applied but the $130 loan would have increased in interest.

    In short, in order to pay off the $130 loan, we had to pay $385 which was the next months minimum payment plus the current loan amount. Since our next smallest debt is with a different provider, the extra $255 in this payment isn’t going where we want it to go.

    I wish we could simply set up auto payments, and then make extra payments on whatever loan whenever we want. Ugh.

  • Reply Jase |

    Great lakes just increased my autopay amount by several hundred dollars and without notifying. I’m sick of being taken advantage of by every corporation I deal with. They won’t have much luck getting anymore of my money when I’m dead.

    • Reply Chris |

      Hello Jase,

      I would like to apologize for any frustration you experienced. I do appreciate the opportunity to address your concerns today.

      In regards to an increase in your auto pay amount, the only way we would increase the payment amount is if the payment amount due has changed. For example; were you due to renew you income driven repayment plan and did not get the paperwork in on time? Or, are you on a graduated repayment plan where your payment amount will increase every two years?

      Please, if you could email me your Great Lakes ID# to SocialMedia@glhec.org, I would be happy to take a look at your account and help you personally with what is happening with your auto pay issue.

      Let us know if you have further questions.

      Chris

  • Reply Katherine |

    Great Lakes is the worst company I have ever dealt with! They have terrible customer service; the staff are not trained properly and do not understand simple questions regarding your loans. You have to escalate every call to a supervisor to get any results. The staff will tell you that they do not offer services listed on their website, so you have to tell them where to find it on the site. The company does things without your authorization. They delay payments to charge you more interest and do not mail out invoices on a consistent basis (if at all). I can just go on and on about how terrible they are. I would NEVER recommend this company to anyone!

  • Reply Katherine |

    Great Lakes is the worst company I have ever dealt with! They have terrible customer service; the staff are not trained properly and do not understand simple questions regarding your loans. You have to escalate every call to a supervisor to get any results. The staff will tell you that they do not offer services listed on their website, so you have to tell them where to find it on the site. The company does things without your authorization. They delay payments to charge you more interest and do not mail out invoices on a consistent basis (if at all). I can just go on and on about how terrible they are. I would NEVER recommend this company to anyone!

    My advice is ungrouping your loans and they will claim not to know what you are talking about but it was the only way I could take control over how my payments are applied. If you cannot ungroup all of them at once because your monthly payments are too high, then ungroup the one you want to pay off. Then go back and keep doing it until you can afford to ungroup them as the minimum payment is $50.00. For all you know you could end up having a smaller loan (less than $1,000) that they are applying like $2-$3 a month because it is grouped so that you never pay it off.

    Also, watch out for how long it takes them to apply for your payments. They have a rule now where payments after 5pm EST takes them until the third day to apply for the payment if you are making extra payments and if you do it on a Friday your payment won’t post till that Tuesday and they will charge you interest every day until the payment is posted.

  • Reply Chris |

    Hi Katherine,

    I would like to apologize for any frustration you experienced. I do appreciate the opportunity to address your concerns today. Please be assured that your opinion is important to us and that Great Lakes strives to provide excellent customer service.

    Regarding payment applications; just so you are aware, while your online payment may take up to 3 to 5 business days to process, it is credited to your account on the date you submitted it (or the next business day if it was submitted after 5:00 p.m. Central Time), and no additional interest would be applied to the payment.

    In regard to us sending out invoices on a consistent basis, we are required by your lender to send out monthly billing statements. Depending on your communication preferences they are either emailed or mailed out 20 days prior to your payment due date. If this has not been your experience – I would like to take a look at your account and verify our communication schedule. Additionally, you can update your communication preferences on our website at MyGreatLakes.org.

    In order to control how your payments are applied after your minimum monthly payment is met, you are able to setup an excess payment preference on our website. With this approach, there would be no need to “ungroup” the accounts, (which could increase your monthly payment amount).

    We hope this information helps. Should you require assistance with any of this feel welcome to reach out to SocialMedia@glhec.org and I can personally assist you.

    Chris
    Social Media Customer Care

So, what do you think ?