Great Lakes Student Loans Refinance - Yes, it's Possible (Here's How to do it)

Jen Williamson Updated on September 4, 2018

Did you know that it's possible to get a lower interest rate on your Great Lakes student loan? It totally is. The only catch: You'll have to say "so long" to Great Lakes.

To refinance your Great Lakes student loan to a lower interest rate, you'll need to apply for refinancing through a private lender. The good news is this whole process is pretty easy, and people do it all the time. In fact, 94,000 people refinanced their student loans last year. Here's what you need to get a better deal on your own student loans. 




What is Great Lakes?

If you have a federal student loan, you also have a loan servicer. Great Lakes is one of the big ones and it's one of several companies the federal government uses to service student loans. Great Lakes was recently in the news because they were acquired by Nelnet, another big loan servicer. 

A loan servicer is an organization that acts as the middleman between you and the federal government, administers your loan, and takes your payments. If you need to adjust the payment terms on your loan, you talk to your servicer.

You can't refinance your loan with your existing federal loan servicer, though. You have to switch to a private lender for that.


What is refinancing?

Refinancing is the closest thing you get to a do-over on your student loan. You take out a new loan with a private lender, and that lender pays off all your other loans for you. What you’re basically doing is replacing your old loan, or multiple different loans, with a single new one.

If you have federal loans, refinancing will mean you’re replacing those loans with a private loan.


Why should I consider refinancing?

The big benefit to refinancing is that you can score a lower interest rate. That equates to a lower monthly payment (most people who refi lower theirs by about $253 per month) or big savings over the life of your loan. In fact, our data shows that the average person who refinances can save around $16,000.

You can also replace many different loans with a single loan—which makes managing and paying off your debt easier.

In addition, refinancing gives you the chance to reset the timeframe of your loan—lengthening it if you want to reduce your monthly payment, or shortening it to pay less interest in the long run.

See also: The 1 Thing You're Probably Not Doing That Could Save You Big-Time On Your Student Loan


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What would refinancing mean for my federal loans?

When you refinance your federal loans, those loans are replaced with a private loan.

There’s a big benefit to this: a chance to score a lower interest rate. Refinancing with a private lender is the only way you can reduce your interest rate on a federal loan.

That’s because federal loans aren’t set according to your credit score. Everyone gets the same rate, depending on the type of loan you have and when you took it out. The current rate for undergraduate Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans taken out on or after July 1, 2018 is 5.05%.

When you refinance with a private lender, that lender takes a look at your credit score and financial situation—and offers you a new interest rate based on what they see. If you have a high credit score, you could get considerably lower interest—some lenders, like Lendkey, are offering rates as low as 2.47%.

The downside to this is that you lose access to federal protections like income-driven repayment and student loan forgiveness for public service employees.

See also: 9 Ways People Accidentally Sabotage Student Loan Forgiveness

The federal government does offer its own (partial) answer to refinancing with a private lender: consolidation. Under this program, you replace multiple federal loans (and only federal loans) with one Direct Consolidation Loan, and you keep your federal perks.

The downside is that you also keep your federal interest rate—and it may even go up. Interest rates for Direct Consolidation Loans are set based on the weighted average of interest rates across all your loans, rounded up to the nearest eighth of a percent.

See also: Everything You Need to Know About Student Loan Consolidation


What are the steps to refinancing my Great Lakes student loan?

The first step is to pick a new lender and get a sense of the interest rate they would offer you.

Every lender’s criteria will be slightly different, but you can get a ballpark idea of how much you could save by plugging your loan info into an online refinancing calculator. Ours is here, if you’d like to compare rates from several different lenders at the same time. 

Most lenders have an online application process that takes about 20 minutes or so. You’ll need info on your current student loans, plus your salary information and work history—so get those documents ready.

The lender will ask you some questions about your financial life and existing loans, then do a “soft pull”—a credit check that doesn’t show up on your score. After that, they’ll make you an initial offer.

Once you pick a lender, they’ll handle all the communication with Great Lakes to refinance your loan.


How do I choose a new lender to refinance my loan with?

There are plenty of lenders out there—and you could go on a research binge to find a great one. But you don’t have to, because we’ve already dug into this question.

Here are some of our preferred lenders. All of these have low rates, great industry reputations, and something special that makes them stand out:

  • SoFi: Offers networking events, classes, an entrepreneurial seed program, and career coaching for ambitious borrowers.
  • CommonBond: It’s made social responsibility part of its mission, with a program that funds the education of children in Ghana.
  • LendKey: Connects you with over 13,000 community banks and credit unions offering very competitive rates—that you wouldn’t have found on your own.
  • CollegeAve: Has an option where you can pay just the interest on your refinanced loan for two years.

Refinancing your Great Lakes student loan is a smart move if you want to save on interest. Use our free calculator to see how much you could save.

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About the Author
Jen Williamson

Jen Williamson is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn. She has written for a variety of industries, including software, education, business, and personal finance. Prior to that, she worked at an adult literacy nonprofit in Philadelphia, where she coached nontraditional students in passing the GED test and applying for college. When she isn’t writing or reading—which is rare—she can usually be found planning her next travel adventure, training for a marathon, or sneaking in somewhere she’s not supposed to be. Read more by Jen Williamson

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LendKey operates student loan programs for over 275 not-for-profit and community lenders across the country. By partnering with these lenders, LendKey is able to give consumers direct access to the best rates available from the most borrower friendly institutions. As the servicer of all loans obtained through its platform, you can rest easy knowing your personal information will be safe and that the best customer service team will be ready to answer your questions from application until your final payment.

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SoFi, which stands for “Social Finance,” was created by a group of Stanford business students who found themselves with a mountain of debt after graduation. They set out to change the student loan industry and help borrowers like themselves to get lower interest rates. SoFi has some of the lowest interest rates and, unlike the other lenders we reviewed, it has no maximum amount you can finance. However, Nevada residents can’t currently refinance with SoFi. Minimum loan balances are higher in Arizona, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania due to state laws. Additional state restrictions may apply.

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Find out what interest rate SoFi can offer you here.

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CommonBond was founded in 2011 by three MBA graduates from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School who wanted to help their peers escape from high-interest student loan debt. Its original focus was on grad students, but it has since expanded to cover undergrads as well.

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Get a personalized review of your refinancing options with CommonBond today.

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