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Our History

Our roots in education go deep, starting with our founding in 1967.

1960s

1965

The federal Higher Education Act, which provides grants, loans and work-study jobs to make college available to all, establishes the Guaranteed Student Loan program.

The Guaranteed Student Loan program is introduced in Wisconsin.

1966

Wisconsin establishes the Higher Educational Aids Board to administer the Guaranteed Student Loan program.

1967

The Higher Educational Aids Board establishes the Wisconsin Higher Education Corporation, the precursor of today’s Ascendium, as Wisconsin’s guarantor.

Wisconsin Higher Education Corporation’s office in downtown Madison

1970s

1977

The Higher Educational Aids Board offers repayment servicing to attract lenders to the Guaranteed Student Loan program, and the program starts gaining momentum.

Breaking ground on Great Lakes’ first office on Madison’s north side

1980s

1984

The Higher Educational Aids Board transfers all guaranteed student loan operations to the Wisconsin Higher Education Corporation, which begins operating as an independent, self-administered nonprofit corporation.

1988

The Wisconsin Higher Education Corporation changes its name to Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation as it expands to markets beyond Wisconsin.

Great Lakes’ first office on Madison’s north side

1990s

1992

The Guaranteed Student Loan program is renamed the Federal Family Education Loan Program in the Higher Education Amendments of 1992.

1994

The U.S. Department of Education appoints Great Lakes as the new guarantor of Puerto Rico.

In response to the Higher Education Amendments of 1992, Great Lakes launches a default rehabilitation program to help borrowers avoid the negative long-term consequences of default.

1995

Great Lakes begins providing origination and repayment servicing to KeyBank in support of KeyBank Alternative Loans.

Great Lakes’ second office on Madison’s north side

1996

The U.S. Department of Education appoints Great Lakes as the newly designated guarantor of Ohio.

1997

NorthStar Guarantee becomes an affiliate. Great Lakes assumes responsibility for NorthStar’s guaranteed loan portfolio and becomes the designated guarantor for Minnesota.

2000s

2001

Montana selects Great Lakes as its guaranty service provider.

Great Lakes' first website

2004

Great Lakes establishes the Community Investments division to oversee its corporate philanthropy. The division is dedicated to helping students get to and through college.

2009

The Education Assistance Corporation joins Great Lakes.

Great Lakes wins a federal servicing contract.

2010s

2010

The Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010 becomes law. It signifies that all federal Stafford, PLUS, and consolidation loans will be processed through the Federal Direct Loan Program, ending the Federal Family Education Loan Program.

2012

The Iowa College Student Aid Commission loan portfolio is transferred to Great Lakes.

NorthStar Education Services becomes an affiliate of Great Lakes.

2014

Great Lakes becomes the designated guarantor for Arkansas.

Great Lakes begins providing support for the outstanding Federal Family Education Loan Program loans guaranteed by the Missouri Department of Higher Education.

2016

Great Lakes’ student loan servicing unit, Great Lakes Educational Loan Services Inc., and Nelnet Loan Servicing LLC form a partnership and start operating as GreatNet Solutions LLC.

Great Lakes becomes the designated guarantor for North Dakota.

2017

The nation’s largest guarantor, United Student Aid Funds, and its subsidiary, Northwest Education Loan Association, join Great Lakes.

Great Lakes launches Attigo, a suite of student success products, and Campus Sonar, a social listening service for colleges.

2018

Nelnet Inc. acquires Great Lakes Educational Loan Services Inc.

Ascendium Education Group is formed. It consists of student loan guaranty services, education philanthropy, Attigo, Campus Sonar and NorthStar.

2019

The Florida Department of Education chooses Ascendium to provide guarantor services for Florida borrowers on its behalf.

2020s

2021

Attigo expands to offer financial wellness services to financial institutions, government agencies and employers.

Ascendium's office on Madison's east side