Each fall, newly minted college graduates around the country begin making payments on their student loans. About 1 in 5 of those payments go to Nelnet, one of the largest companies that services federal student loans. Nelnet contracts with the U.S. Department of Education to manage borrowers’ repayment progress. If you have student loans serviced by Nelnet, it’s good to know what to expect in terms of options, benefits and customer service.
Nelnet (short for National Education Loan Network) is the fourth largest company that services federal student loans, behind AES, Great Lakes, and Navient. The firm, which is headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska, was founded in 1978. Today, Nelnet handles about 18% of the U.S. Dept. of Education’s direct loans, serving almost 6.6 million borrowers with debt totaling $169.9 billion. It also services loans from private lenders including Citizens Bank (through Nelnet subsidiary FirstMark Services).
Nelnet is a publicly traded corporation with more than 50 subsidiaries in the United States and Canada. Besides FirstMark, its holdings include: Payment Spring, Peterson’s publishing, First National Life Insurance, inTuition, infiNet, LoanSTAR, and TriCura Canada. Recently, Nelnet formed a joint venture with Great Lakes to bid on a massive contract to create a single platform for all U.S. Department of Education loan servicing. The combined entity, called GreatNet, is one of three vendors being considered for the job. The others are Navient and AES/FedLoan.
Companies like Nelnet have almost as much power as the government when it comes to managing your student loans. Like all servicers, Nelnet sends monthly bills, processes and applies loan payments, and helps borrowers choose a repayment plan. It also deals with requests for deferment or forbearance and certifies borrowers for loan forgiveness. If borrowers fall behind on their payments, the company reports it to credit bureaus.
Nelnet has a comprehensive website that divides the student loan life cycle into three stages – in school, in grace period, and in repayment – with clear options and instructions for each. It also has a mobile app that is available on iPhone and Android. You can sign up for text alerts to avoid late payments.
Nelnet’s website has a “Get Financially Fit” page with resources, worksheets and tips. It also has a unique payment feature. For borrowers with more than one loan being serviced by Nelnet, there is a “Pay by Group” option lets you sort loans by interest rate, balance, due date, and so forth. When making your payment, you can select how much money goes to each group of loans.
Account holders can follow Nelnet on Facebook and Twitter to get timely tips and insights. The company claims to answer any questions posted to social media within 24 hours. Nelnet also places a lot of emphasis on preventing identity theft. Its website has tips and extra security measures to help borrowers protect themselves. However, like many other federal loan servicers, Nelnet has been the subject of numerous consumer complaints.
Most college grads are automatically enrolled in the standard repayment plan, with fixed payments over 10 years. But you can change that if you like. Like all federal student loan servicers, Nelnet offers a prescribed set of repayment options dictated by the U.S. Department of Education. They include graduated payments that start small and increase at set intervals; extended repayment over 25 years; and income-driven plans that cap payments at 10-20% of the borrower’s discretionary income.
The first step if you’re having trouble making your student loan payments is to contact the servicer. Nelnet’s customer service is reachable by website, phone, email, snail mail. If you’re unemployed, underemployed, or experiencing financial hardship, you might qualify for forbearance or deferment. Income-driven plans can lower your payments. You can also pay less each month if you extend the term of your loan. There are several measures that can help ease the stress in the short term, but most will keep you in debt longer and increase the total amount of interest you’ll pay. Servicers like Nelnet cannot lower your interest rate.
Office Hours: Open 24/7
P.O. Box 82561
Lincoln, NE 68501-2561
Click here for more information on the other main student loan servicers.