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One company will now handle close to half of all student-loan payments

Every month, approximately 40 million Americans make payments to a corporation they know almost nothing about.

There are just four major companies contracted by the federal government to process the nation’s student loan checks and after the just-completed merger of two of these firms — Nelnet Inc. NNI, +2.56% and Great Lakes Educational Loan Services Inc. — one company will handle more than 40% of all payments.

While it might not seem to matter who processes the payments, these companies have an outsize role in the shape of America’s $1.4 trillion student-loan burden. Though the rising cost of college and stagnant wages are the most cited reasons for our nation’s student-debt problems, borrower advocates, law-enforcement officials and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have said the student-loan industry itself is also to blame.

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