3 Ways to Lower Your Great Lakes Student Loan Payment


Katie Taylor Updated: February 3, 2020

Millions of borrowers in the United States are struggling to make their student loan payments each month. If you’re one of them, there are two important things you should know: you’re not alone, and you can lower your payments.

We’ve put together a list of three of the best ways to lower your Great Lakes monthly payments right now. One of them could even lower the amount you pay over the life of the loan. (Spoiler alert: It’s refinancing.)

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No matter your financial situation or your career goals, we have an option for you.

1.  Change your repayment plan

If you’re currently making payments under a standard repayment plan — the plan you’re automatically enrolled in when you graduate — then your payment amounts are based on you being able to pay the loan off in 10 years.

Unfortunately, a 10-year repayment plan is too aggressive for many borrowers. To provide some relief, the federal government offers income-driven repayment programs.

An income-driven repayment plan is exactly what it sounds like — a plan that bases your monthly payment amount on your income. There are four different types of income-driven plans, and they each set your monthly payment amount at 10-20% of your discretionary income and extend your repayment term to 20 or 25 years.

Any remaining balance at the end of the term will be forgiven. Though loan forgiveness is every borrower’s dream, know that this forgiveness comes at a price: you have to pay taxes on the forgiven balance.

See also: The Ultimate Guide to Student Loan Forgiveness

Income-driven plans can be very helpful for some borrowers, but be aware that spreading out your payments over a longer may lead to you paying more over the life of the loan. Why? Because you’ll be paying interest longer.

You can enroll in income-driven repayment by going to the Federal Student Aid website or by contacting Great Lakes.

2. Consolidate your loans

When you consolidate your federal loans with a Direct Consolidation Loan through Great Lakes, you replace multiple loans with a single loan. And that single loan has a single payment. Handy, right?

Consolidation could lower your monthly payment if you extend the term of your loan (for instance, from a 10-year standard term to a 30-year extended term), but it won’t reduce your interest rate. In fact, your new interest rate is the weighted average of all your loans rounded up by an eighth of a percent, so consolidating may actually increase your interest rate slightly.

A few things to keep in mind: if you reduce your payments this way, you’ll be paying more over the life of the loan. And while your loan will still be eligible for income-driven repayment, any payments you might have made toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness will no longer count in that program. You’ll have to start over with qualifying payments.

You can find out more about consolidating your Great Lakes loans here.

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3.  Refinance through a private lender

Refinancing through a private lender is the only way to lower both your monthly payment and your interest rate. Current refinancing rates are lower than federal student loan rates for qualified borrowers, and that could mean significant savings.

Both federal and private loans are eligible for refinancing with a private lender. However, it’s important to know that if you refinance federal loans with a private lender, you will lose access to certain federal benefits such as income-driven repayment or Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Of course, the savings — both monthly and in the long-term — could be enough to make up for any loss of benefits. Here’s how it works:

Sample refi scenario

Let’s say all of your student loans are from graduate school, and those have a high interest rate. You graduated with $75,000 in loans at a 6.08% interest rate — the current rate for federal graduate student loans. Your monthly payment is $836.

You have great credit, so you’re able to refinance for an interest rate of 4.9% and a new loan term of 20 years. Your new monthly payment is $491, which means you have $300 more in your bank account every month. (Of course, it’s important to consider whether you should choose a variable or fixed interest rate. Learn more here.)

What's your next move?

If you think refinancing could work for you, check your own numbers in our Student Loan Refinancing Calculator.

Of course, everyone’s situation is different, but any one of these options is better than defaulting on your loans. Take action to lower your payments now.

Refinance & Save Today With These Leading Lenders

#1 - Nitro Recommended View More Details

Earnest empowers people with the financial capital they need to live better lives.

  • APR: 1.99% - 6.43%
  • Minimum credit score: 650
  • Refinance up to $500K
View More Details
Visit Earnest View Loan Disclosure

Using technology, data, and design to build affordable products, Earnest's lending products are built for a new generation seeking to reach life's milestones. The company understands every applicant's unique financial story to offer the lowest possible rates and radically flexible loan options for living life.

  • Commitment-free 2 minute rate check
  • Client Happiness can be reached via in app messaging, email, and phone 
  • No fees for origination, prepayment, or loan disbursement
  • Flexible terms let you pick your exact monthly payment or switch between fixed and variable rates
  • Skip a payment and make it up later
  • Online dashboard is designed to make it easy to apply for and manage your loan

Click here to apply with Earnest and to see how much you can save.

#2 View More Details

Operates in all 50 states; 2nd largest student loan refinancing lender

  • APR: 1.99% - 7.02%
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • No refinancing amount maximum
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Visit Laurel Road View Loan Disclosure

Laurel Road is a national online lender with customers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Many of our non-bank competitors are not able to lend in all 50 states.Laurel Road has grown to be the second largest player in the student loan refinancing space in large part because of our reputation as the go-to low rate provider.

Laurel Road Student Loan Refinance Review

  • National reach - Online lender that is available in all 50 US states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
  • No fees & the lowest rates in the space - Laurel Road is the most transparent about the rates they provide customers, and offer the lowest rates where it counts. Our customers will save more than $20,000 over the life of their loans on average. 
  • Customer service reputation - Laurel Road's customer service representatives are no rookies. With 19 years of experience on average, Laurel Road’s Customer Service team delivers an experience that is best in the industry. They work to build meaningful, life-long relationships with our valued customers to improve their overall financial wellness.
  • The stability & security of a bank - They are a division of Darien Rowayton Bank, a stable and secure FDIC-insured bank, regulated by the FDIC and the Connecticut Department of Banking.

Get your personalized, pre-approved rates in less than 5 minutes.

#3 View More Details

For every loan they fund, they contribute to the education of a child in need

  • APR: 1.76% - 5.95%
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • Refinance up to $500K
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Visit CommonBond View Loan Disclosure

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.

Of all the companies we reviewed, CommonBond has some of the best customer service. The company prides itself on being easy to reach by email, phone, or live chat. It offers networking events, expert panels, insider newsletters, and even has a program help borrowers who lose their jobs to find new ones. CommonBond also makes you feel good about choosing to refinance with them by donating money to an education nonprofit for each loan they write.

CommonBond Student Loan Refinance review

  • Unemployment protections - If you lose your job or decide to go back to school, you can delay your payments for up to 24 months.
  • Social promise - For every loan they fund, they also contribute to the education of a child in need.
  • Hybrid loan option - Offerings include a 10-year hybrid loan with fixed interest for the first five years, and variable interest for the final five.
  • Referral bonus - For every friend you refer who refinances their loans with CommonBond, you’ll earn a $200 cash bonus.
  • Qualification - Borrowers must have graduated at least 2 years prior if they want to apply without a co-signer. And borrowers in 6 states – Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, South Dakota, and Vermont – cannot currently refinance through CommonBond.

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

#4 View More Details

Credible is an online marketplace that provides borrowers with competitive, personalized loan offers from multiple, vetted lenders in real time.

  • Free to use, no hidden fees
  • Minimum credit score: 650
  • No refinancing maximum amount
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Visit Credible View Loan Disclosure

Credible is a multi-lender marketplace that empowers consumers to discover student loan refinancing options that are the best fit for their unique circumstances. Our integrations with leading lenders and credit bureaus allow consumers to quickly compare accurate, personalized loan options ― without putting their personal information at risk or affecting their credit score. The Credible marketplace provides an unrivaled customer experience, as reflected by over 2,000 positive Trustpilot reviews and a TrustScore of 9.5/10. Credible is headquartered in San Francisco, California.

For more information, click here to apply now with Credible.

  • Compare prequalified rates from multiple, vetted lenders in 2 minutes.
  • Refinance federal, private and ParentPLUS loans.
  • San Francisco-based customer support 7 days a week.
  • Checking your rates won't affect your credit score.
  • Get your final offer in as little as 1 business day.
  • Credible’s partner lenders do not charge prepayment penalties, loan application fees, or origination fees.
  • Free to use, no hidden fees: Requesting rates can take just minutes and costs you nothing.
#5 View More Details

Works with 300+ community lenders for higher approval chances

  • APR: 2.63% - 7.75%
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • Refinance up to $300K
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Visit LendKey View Loan Disclosure

Connecting student borrowers to a network of over 300 community lenders with low interest rates. 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.

LendKey Student Loan Refinance review

  • Lightning fast rate check - 2-minute rate check with no impact on your credit score
  • More lenders, more options - see the best offers from over 300+ community lenders for higher approval chances
  • Life of loan relationship - With LendKey, your personal information will never be sent or passed on to third parties. Their customer service team is with you from the moment you land on their website until you've completely repaid your loan.
  • Unmatched benefits- Community lenders put people over profits and offer unique benefits like cosigner release after 12 on-time payments, interest only repayment options to keep monthly payments low, the largest unemployment protection period in the market, and more.

Get a personalized quote from LendKey now.

#6 View More Details

Many ELFI customers save hundreds per month month and thousands over the length of the loan term.

  • APR: 2.39% - 6.69%
  • Minimum credit score: 680
  • No refinancing maximum amount
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Visit ElFi View Loan Disclosure

Education Loan Finance is designed to assist borrowers through consolidating outstanding education loans into one single loan that effectively lowers your costs of education and/or makes repayment very simple. Education Loan Finance - backed by the strength of SouthEast Bank - combines the benefits of traditional education loan refinancing with the superior products, service, and support found in the private market.

Education Loan Finance (ElFi) review

Check out their low rates today to see how much you can save.

  • Get Your Rate. With Education Loan Finance's Find My Rate tool, you can complete a short application to receive a preliminary quote on your eligible rates and terms, all without affecting your credit score.
  • Apply in Minutes. Education Loan Finance's online application is fast and simple.
  • Outstanding Personalized Service. Our Personalized Loan Advisors specialize in student loan refinancing and help busy professionals find the option that's right for them.
  • Student Lending Experience: Education Loan Finance isn't a start-up company - we have a longstanding history and expertise in serving student loan borrowers.

Attractive Bonus and Referral Programs:

  • Education Loan Finance Referral Program**: Earn $400 for each new Education Loan Finance Client referred by you!
#7 View More Details

Special offers for medical resident and fellow refinance products

  • APR: 1.99% - 7.27%
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • No Maximum when refinancing
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Visit Splash View Loan Disclosure

Splash Financial is a leader in student loan refinancing with new rates as low as 3.25% fixed APR which can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your loans. No application or origination fees and no prepayment penalties. Splash Financial is in all 50 states and is intensely focused on customer service. Splash Financial is also one of the few companies that offers a great medical resident and fellow refinance product. You can check your rate with Splash in just minutes.

  • Low interest rates – especially for graduate students
  • No application or origination fees. No prepayment penalties.
  • Co-signer release program - you can apply for a cosigner release form your loan after 12 months of on-time payments
  • Specialty product for doctors in training with low monthly payment

Click here to see more of Splash's offerings and to see how you can save money.

I reduced my student loan payment by $152 per month, by refinancing thru Nitro

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