Nelnet is the largest servicer of federal student loans and administers the Total and Permanent Disability Discharge Program. Borrowers don’t get to choose their federal loan servicer but, if they’re unhappy, can change by consolidating or refinancing.
- Key Takeaways
- Company Overview
- Nelnet is a student loan servicing company contracted by the Department of Education to service direct and Federal Family Education Loans.
- Nelnet acquired Great Lakes Educational Loan Services in 2018 and together the pair service more federal student loans than any other servicer.
- Nelnet is the loan servicer in charge of administering the Total and Permanent Disability Discharge Program.
- You can pay your student loans online, on Nelnet’s mobile app, by phone, or by mail.
- Nelnet is currently facing a class-action lawsuit from borrowers claiming their income-driven repayment plan applications were mishandled.
- Year Founded 1996
- Official Website www.nelnet.com
- Loans Offered Federal, Undergraduate Private, Graduate Private, Consolidation
- Customer Service Online 24/7 or by phone: 888-486-4722 M-F 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET
When you take out federal student loans, the U.S. Department of Education is your lender. However, you’re paired with another company—a loan servicer—that handles your payments, answers any questions you may have, and adjusts your payment plan, if necessary. If you don’t know who your loan servicer is, you can find out by logging into the National Student Loan Data System or calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 800-433-3243.
As of 2021, there are 11 federal loan servicers (including AES which only services loans from the discontinued FFEL program). Nelnet is one of the largest. It acquired Great Lakes Educational Loan Services in 2018, and together the two companies serviced $473 billion of loans for 15.1 million borrowers in 2019.
If you’ve been assigned to Nelnet, here’s what you need to know about the loan servicer.
What Is Nelnet?
Nelnet was appointed by the Department of Education to service direct loans and Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL). Currently, Nelnet is under contract with the Department of Education through December 2021.
After December 2021, Nelnet's contract is unlikely to be renewed and its borrower portfolio will be transferred to another loan servicer.
Is Nelnet Federal or Private?
Nelnet is primarily known as a federal loan servicer. However, Nelnet is a large company with several segments. Parts of its business offers private education loans and consumer loans.
Nelnet offers private student loans and student loan refinancing through a partnership with Union Bank & Trust Company under the brand name U-fi From Nelnet.
What Can Nelnet Help You With?
If Nelnet is your assigned loan servicer, you can contact the company about the following topics:
- Total and Permanent Disability Discharge – Nelnet is the loan servicer in charge of administering the Total and Permanent Disability Discharge Program. If you have federal direct loans, FFEL loans, or Perkins loans and become permanently and totally disabled, you may be eligible for loan discharge. To apply, you fill out an application with your physician’s assistance. For more information, visit DisabilityDischarge.com.
- Payments – To make monthly payments, additional payments, or pay off your loans in full, you can go online, use Nelnet’s mobile app, or call customer support. You can also mail in a payment or set up regular payments through your bank's online bill pay service.
- Trouble affording your payments – If you’re experiencing financial hardship and can’t afford your minimum monthly payments, contact Nelnet as soon as possible. You may be eligible for an income-driven repayment plan, which can reduce your monthly payment. You may instead qualify for forbearance or deferment, which will allow you to temporarily postpone your payments.
- Loan consolidation – If you have multiple federal loans and have trouble keeping track of your payment due dates, you can consolidate them with a direct consolidation loan. When you consolidate your debt, you’ll have just one loan to manage and one payment to remember.
- Repayment options for service members – If you are in the military, you can contact Nelnet to discuss your repayment options while on active duty. Depending on your situation, you may be eligible for interest rate caps, waivers, or reduced monthly payments.
How to Make Student Loan Payments With Nelnet
You can make payments in the following ways:
- Phone – You can make payments over the phone by calling 888-486-4722. You can speak with a representative or make a payment through the automated phone system.
- Mobile app – You can download the Nelnet app onto your phone and make payments directly through the app. The app is available in the iTunes Store (1.6 stars, 675 reviews ) and Google Play (3.5 stars, 713 reviews ).
- Mail – You can pay via check. However, the mailing address is dependent on your location. Use the mailing address located on your billing statement and include your Nelnet account number on the check.
- Online – You can make payments online at Nelnet.com.
To start making payments online, follow these three simple steps:
1. Create an Account on Nelnet.com
To sign up for an account, click on “Register” on the home screen. The site will prompt you to enter the following information:
- Social Security number
- Date of birth
- Email address
You will create a security question to verify your identity.
2. Select Your Loan
Once your account has been activated, you can select your loan and schedule a payment. While you can make one-time payments if you wish, it’s a good idea to set up automatic payments. When you enroll in autopay, Nelnet will give you a 0.25% interest rate discount. Over time, the discount will allow you to save hundreds of dollars.
3. Learn How Payments Work
If you have more than one student loan with Nelnet, it’s important to understand how your payments are allocated. If you pay more than is due, Nelnet will apply the extra payment to the loan with the highest interest rate. Once that loan is paid off, Nelnet will apply the extra payments toward the loan with the next highest interest rate. If you want to change how payments are applied, you must contact Nelnet and make special payment instructions.
Nelnet was founded in 1996 and is based in Lincoln, Neb. The company has more than 6,500 employees in offices all over the country.
Nelnet is one of the largest loan servicers in the country and has been the subject of some controversy. In the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) 2019 Student Loan Ombudsman Report, the CFPB reported that it handled 5,000 federal student loan complaints between Sept. 1, 2019, and Aug. 31, 2020. Approximately 14% of those complaints were about Nelnet, making it one of the most commonly reported companies.
A class-action lawsuit was filed against Nelnet in June 2020 by the Domina Law Group on behalf of five student loan borrowers. In the complaint, the borrowers claim that they suffered when their income-driven repayment plan applications were mishandled.
If you had federal student loans serviced by Nelnet at any period within the previous four years prior to June 2020 or after,
- Were enrolled in an IDR plan;
- Submitted an application to renew the plan on time;
- Had your application eventually approved; and
- Had your IDR temporarily discontinued by Nelnet while the application was pending.
You’re encouraged to contact Domina Law Group.
How to Contact Nelnet
You can contact Nelnet’s customer service department by phone by calling 888-486-4722. The call center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST. You can also reach customer support by filling out a secure email form on Nelnet’s website.
You can mail general correspondence—not your payments—to one of the following two addresses:
Residents of California – Nelnet, P.O. Box 82578, Lincoln, NE 68501-2578
Residents of all other states – Nelnet, P.O. Box 82561, Lincoln, NE 68501-2561
Finally, you can fax 877-402-5816 or email WrittenRequest@nelnet.net.
Is Nelnet Your Only Servicer Option?
With federal student loans, you can’t pick your loan servicer; one is assigned to you. If you’re unhappy with the loan servicer you have, there are only three ways to get a new one:
1. Consolidate Your Loans
If you want to simplify your loan payments and extend your repayment term but keep your loans in the federal loan system, you can consolidate your debt with a direct consolidation loan. When you consolidate your loans, you can extend your repayment term to up to 30 years, and you’ll get a new loan servicer.
Your loans will be combined into one, and your interest rate on the new loan will be based on the weighted average of your current loans, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent.
2. Pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness
If you work for a nonprofit organization or government agency full time, you may be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). If you intend to apply for PSLF, notify Nelnet. Once you do so, the company will transfer your loans to FedLoan Servicing, the designated PSLF loan servicer.
3. Refinance With a Private Lender
If you’re unhappy with your loan servicer and willing to sacrifice federal benefits such as access to income-driven repayment (IDR) plans and loan forgiveness, another approach to consider is student loan refinancing. When you refinance your loans, you consolidate your debt with a private lender. Your new loan has different conditions, including repayment term, interest rate, and minimum monthly payment. If you decide to refinance your loans, check out our list of the best refinancing lenders.
As one of the largest federal loan services, Nelnet does have a history of some issues with borrowers. However, you can minimize problems by enrolling in automatic payments, keeping good records, and contacting Nelnet right away if you notice any discrepancies with your account.
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U.S. Department of Education: Federal Student Aid. "Who's My Loan Servicer?" Accessed April 16, 2021.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Annual Report of the CFPB Private Education Loan Ombudsman." Page 25-28. Accessed April 16, 2021.
U.S. Department of Education: Federal Student Aid. "Student Loan Consolidation: What is the interest rate on a consolidation loan?" Accessed April 16, 2021.
U.S. Department of Education: Federal Student Aid. "Public Service Loan Forgiveness." Accessed April 16, 2021.