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UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549
FORM 10-K
(Mark One)
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
 For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2023
                                                                                                            or
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
 For the transition period from  to .
COMMISSION FILE NUMBER 001-31924
Nelnet_Logo_color.jpg
NELNET, INC.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
Nebraska
84-0748903
(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)
121 South 13th Street, Suite 100

Lincoln,
Nebraska68508
(Address of principal executive offices)
 (Zip Code)
Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (402) 458-2370
SECURITIES REGISTERED PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(b) OF THE ACT:
Title of each classTrading SymbolName of each exchange on which registered
Class A Common Stock, Par Value $0.01 per ShareNNINew York Stock Exchange
SECURITIES REGISTERED PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(g) OF THE ACT: None
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes ☒ No ☐
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes ☐ No
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.  Yes ☒ No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yes ☒ No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and "emerging growth company" in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Accelerated filer ☐
Large accelerated filer ☒                    Smaller reporting company
Non-accelerated filer ☐                    Emerging growth company
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.
If securities are registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act, indicate by check mark whether the financial statements of the registrant included in the filing reflect the correction of an error to previously issued financial statements.
Indicate by check mark whether any of those error corrections are restatements that required a recovery analysis of incentive-based compensation received by any of the registrant’s executive officers during the relevant recovery period pursuant to §240.10D-1(b). ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act). Yes ☐   No
The aggregate market value of the registrant’s voting common stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant on June 30, 2023 (the last business day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter), based upon the closing sale price of the registrant’s Class A Common Stock on that date of $96.48 per share, was $1,631,360,831. The registrant’s Class B Common Stock is not listed for public trading on any exchange or market system, but shares of Class B Common Stock are convertible into shares of Class A Common Stock at any time on a share-for-share basis. For purposes of this calculation, shares of common stock beneficially owned by any director or executive officer of the registrant or by any person who beneficially owns greater than 10% of the Class A Common Stock or who is otherwise believed by the registrant to be in a control position have been excluded, since such persons may be deemed to be affiliates of the registrant. This determination of affiliate status is not conclusive for other purposes.
As of January 31, 2024, there were 26,378,391 and 10,663,088 shares of Class A Common Stock and Class B Common Stock, par value $0.01 per share, outstanding, respectively (excluding 11,305,731 shares of Class A Common Stock held by wholly owned subsidiaries).
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the registrant’s definitive Proxy Statement to be filed for its 2024 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, scheduled to be held May 16, 2024, are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Form 10-K.
Auditor Name: KPMG LLP             Auditor Location: Lincoln, Nebraska             Auditor Firm ID: 185



NELNET, INC.
FORM 10-K
TABLE OF CONTENTS
December 31, 2023




FORWARD-LOOKING AND CAUTIONARY STATEMENTS
This report contains forward-looking statements and information that are based on management's current expectations as of the date of this document. Statements that are not historical facts, including statements about the Company's plans and expectations for future financial condition, results of operations or economic performance, or that address management's plans and objectives for future operations, and statements that assume or are dependent upon future events, are forward-looking statements. The words “anticipate,” “assume,” “believe,” “continue,” “could,” “ensure,” “estimate,” “expect,” “forecast,” “future,” “intend,” “may,” “plan,” “potential,” “predict,” “scheduled,” “should,” “will,” “would,” and similar expressions, as well as statements in future tense, are intended to identify forward-looking statements.
The forward-looking statements are based on assumptions and analyses made by management in light of management's experience and its perception of historical trends, current conditions, expected future developments, and other factors that management believes are appropriate under the circumstances. These statements are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties, assumptions, and other factors that may cause the actual results and performance to be materially different from any future results or performance expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. These factors include, among others, the risks and uncertainties set forth in “Risk Factors” and elsewhere in this report, and include such risks and uncertainties as:
risks related to the ability to successfully maintain and increase allocated volumes of student loans serviced by the Company under existing and future servicing contracts with the U.S. Department of Education (the "Department"), risks related to unfavorable contract modifications or interpretations, and risks related to the Company's ability to comply with agreements with third-party customers for the servicing of Federal Direct Loan Program, Federal Family Education Loan Program (the "FFEL Program" or FFELP), private education, and consumer loans;
loan portfolio risks such as prepayment risk, credit risk, interest rate basis and repricing risk, risks related to the use of derivatives to manage exposure to interest rate fluctuations, uncertainties regarding the expected benefits from purchased securitized and unsecuritized FFELP, private education, consumer, and other loans, or investment interests therein, and initiatives to purchase additional FFELP, private education, consumer, and other loans;
financing and liquidity risks, including risks of changes in the interest rate environment;
risks from changes in the terms of education loans and in the educational credit and services markets resulting from changes in applicable laws, regulations, and government programs and budgets;
risks related to a breach of or failure in the Company's operational or information systems or infrastructure, or those of third-party vendors;
risks related to use of artificial intelligence;
uncertainties inherent in forecasting future cash flows from student loan assets and related asset-backed securitizations;
risks related to the ability of Nelnet Bank to achieve its business objectives and effectively deploy loan and deposit strategies and achieve expected market penetration;
risks related to the expected benefits to the Company from its continuing investment in ALLO Holdings, LLC (referred to collectively with its subsidiary ALLO Communications LLC as "ALLO"), and risks related to investments in solar projects, including risks of not being able to realize tax credits which remain subject to recapture by taxing authorities and rising construction costs;
risks and uncertainties related to other initiatives to pursue additional strategic investments (and anticipated income therefrom) including venture capital and real estate investments, acquisitions, and other activities (including risks associated with errors that occasionally occur in converting loan servicing portfolios to a new servicing platform), including activities that are intended to diversify the Company both within and outside of its historical core education-related businesses;
risks and uncertainties associated with climate change; and
risks and uncertainties associated with litigation matters and maintaining compliance with the extensive regulatory requirements applicable to the Company's businesses, and uncertainties inherent in the estimates and assumptions about future events that management is required to make in the preparation of the Company’s consolidated financial statements.
All forward-looking statements contained in this report are qualified by these cautionary statements and are made only as of the date of this document. Although the Company may from time to time voluntarily update or revise its prior forward-looking statements to reflect actual results or changes in the Company's expectations, the Company disclaims any commitment to do so except as required by law. In this report, unless the context indicates otherwise, references to "Nelnet," "the Company," "we," "our," and "us" refer to Nelnet, Inc. and its subsidiaries.
2


PART I.
ITEM 1. BUSINESS
Overview
Nelnet is a diverse, innovative company with a purpose to serve others and a vision to make dreams possible. The largest operating businesses engage in loan servicing and education technology services and payments. A significant portion of the Company's revenue is net interest income earned on a portfolio of federally insured student loans. The Company also makes investments to further diversify both within and outside of its historical core education-related businesses including, but not limited to, investments in a fiber communications company (ALLO), early-stage and emerging growth companies (venture capital investments), real estate, and renewable energy (solar). Substantially all revenue from external customers is earned, and all long-lived assets are located, in the United States.
The Company was formed as a Nebraska corporation in 1978 to service federal student loans for two local banks. The Company built on this initial foundation as a servicer to become a leading originator, holder, and servicer of federal student loans, principally consisting of loans originated under the Federal Family Education Loan Program.
The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (the “Reconciliation Act of 2010”) discontinued new loan originations under the FFEL Program, effective July 1, 2010, and requires all new federal student loan originations be made directly by the Department through the Federal Direct Loan Program. This law does not alter or affect the terms and conditions of existing FFELP loans.
Subsequent to the Reconciliation Act of 2010, the Company no longer originates FFELP loans. However, a significant portion of the Company's income continues to be derived from its existing FFELP student loan portfolio. As of December 31, 2023, the Company had a $11.7 billion FFELP loan portfolio. Interest income on the Company's existing FFELP loan portfolio will decline over time as the portfolio is paid down. To reduce its reliance on interest income from FFELP loans, the Company has expanded its services and products. This expansion has been accomplished through internal growth and innovation as well as business and certain investment acquisitions. The Company is also actively expanding its private education, consumer, and other loan portfolios, or investment interests therein, and as part of this strategy launched Nelnet Bank in 2020. In addition, the Company has been servicing federally owned student loans for the Department since 2009.
Operating Segments
The Company has four reportable operating segments as summarized below.
Loan Servicing and Systems (LSS)
Referred to as Nelnet Diversified Services (NDS)
Focuses on student and consumer loan servicing, loan servicing-related technology solutions, and outsourcing business services
Includes the brands Nelnet Diversified Solutions, Nelnet Loan Servicing, Nelnet Servicing, Firstmark Services, Sloan Servicing, GreatNet, and Nelnet Government Services
Education Technology Services and Payments (ETSP)
Referred to as Nelnet Business Services (NBS)
NBS provides education and payment technology and services for K-12 schools, higher education institutions, churches, and businesses in the United States and internationally
Includes the divisions of FACTS, Nelnet Campus Commerce, Nelnet Payment Services, and Nelnet International
Asset Generation and Management (AGM)
Included in the Nelnet Financial Services (NFS) division
Includes the acquisition and management of student and other loan assets, including investment interests therein
Nelnet Bank
Included in the Nelnet Financial Services (NFS) division
Internet Utah-chartered industrial bank focused on the private education and unsecured consumer loan markets
The NFS division has other operating segments that are not reportable as further described below under “Nelnet Financial Services - NFS Other Operating Segments.” All other business activities and operating segments that are not reportable and not part of the NFS division are combined and included in “Corporate and Other Activities." A more detailed description of each of the Company’s operating segments and Corporate and Other Activities is provided below.
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Loan Servicing and Systems
The primary service offerings of this operating segment include:
Servicing federally owned student loans for the Department
Servicing FFELP loans
Servicing private education and consumer loans
Providing backup servicing for FFELP, private education, and consumer loans
Providing student loan servicing software and other information technology products and services
Providing outsourced services including call center, processing, and technology services
As of December 31, 2023, the Company serviced $532.6 billion of loans for 16.1 million borrowers. See Part II, Item 7 – Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations (the “MD&A”) – “Loan Servicing and Systems Operating Segment – Results of Operations - Loan Servicing Volumes” for additional information related to the Company's servicing volume.
Servicing federally owned student loans for the Department
Nelnet Servicing, LLC (Nelnet Servicing), a subsidiary of the Company, is one of the current four private sector entities that have student loan servicing contracts with the Department to service loans that include Federal Direct Loan Program loans originated directly by the Department and FFEL Program loans purchased by the Department. The Department evaluates each federal loan servicer and allocates new borrower accounts on a quarterly basis based on service level and portfolio performance metrics. As of December 31, 2023, the Company was servicing $494.7 billion of student loans for 14.5 million borrowers for the Department. Nelnet Servicing earns a monthly fee from the Department for each unique borrower it services on behalf of the Department. The Department is the Company's largest customer, representing 32% of the Company's revenue and 74% of the LSS operating segment’s revenue in 2023.
The Company’s current student loan servicing contract with the Department was scheduled to expire on December 14, 2023. In April 2023, Nelnet Servicing received a contract award from the Department, pursuant to which it was selected to provide continued servicing capabilities for the Department’s student aid recipients under a new Unified Servicing and Data Solution (USDS) contract (the “New Government Servicing Contract”) which will replace the existing legacy Department student loan servicing contract. The New Government Servicing Contract has a five year base period, with 2 two-year and 1 one-year possible extensions. The Department’s total loan servicing volume of more than 40 million existing borrowers will be allocated by the Department to Nelnet Servicing and four other third-party servicers that were awarded a USDS contract. Until servicing under the New Government Servicing Contract goes live, which is anticipated to be in April 2024, the Company will continue to earn revenue for servicing borrowers under its current legacy servicing contract with the Department.
Incremental revenue components earned currently by Nelnet Servicing from the Department under its existing contract (in addition to loan servicing revenue) include:
Administration of the Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge program. Nelnet Servicing processes applications for the TPD discharge program and is responsible for discharge, monitoring, and servicing TPD loans. Individuals who are totally and permanently disabled may qualify for a discharge of their federal student loans, and the Company processes applications under the program and receives a fee from the Department on a per application basis, as well as a monthly servicing fee during the monitoring period. Nelnet Servicing is the exclusive provider of this service to the Department.
Origination of consolidation loans. The Department outsources the origination of consolidation loans whereby servicers receive Federal Direct Loan consolidation origination volume based on borrower choice. The Department pays the Company a fee for each completed consolidation loan application it processes. Nelnet Servicing services the consolidation volume it originates.
Once the New Government Servicing Contract goes live, the Company will no longer originate consolidation loans for the Department. However, it will earn incremental revenue under the New Government Servicing Contract as the exclusive service provider to the Department for certain specialty tasks, including managing FFELP guaranty agency rehabilitation loan purchases and providing image repository services, decommissioned servicer data and payment support services, and legacy loan consolidation origination and disbursement support services.
Servicing FFELP loans
NDS services AGM’s FFELP student loan portfolio and the portfolios of third parties. The loan servicing activities include loan conversion activities, application processing, borrower updates, customer service, payment processing, due diligence
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procedures, funds management reconciliations, and claim processing. These activities are performed internally for the Company's portfolio, in addition to generating external fee revenue when performed for third-party clients.
The Company uses proprietary systems to manage the servicing process. These systems provide for automated compliance with most of the federal student loan regulations adopted under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (the “Higher Education Act”).
The Company serviced FFELP loans on behalf of 94 third-party servicing customers as of December 31, 2023. The Company's FFELP servicing customers include national and regional banks, credit unions, and various state and nonprofit secondary markets. The majority of the Company's external FFELP loan servicing activities are performed under “life of loan” contracts, which essentially provide that as long as the applicable loan exists, the Company shall be the sole servicer of that loan; however, the agreement may contain “deconversion” provisions where, for a fee, the lender may move the loan to another servicer.
The discontinuation of new FFELP loan originations in July 2010 has caused and will continue to cause FFELP servicing revenue to decline as these loan portfolios are paid down.
Servicing private education and consumer loans
NDS conducts servicing activities for private education and consumer loans. Private education loans are non-federal private credit loans made to students or their family; as such, the loans are not issued or guaranteed by the federal government. Although similar in terms of activities and functions as FFELP loan servicing, private education loan servicing activities are not required to comply with provisions of the Higher Education Act and may be more customized to individual client requirements.
The Company has invested and plans to continue to invest in modernizing key technologies and services to position its consumer loan servicing business for the long-term, expanding services to include personal loan products and other consumer installment assets. The Company is in the process of a modernization of its private education and consumer servicing systems. The Company believes improvements in systems will allow for diversified products to be serviced with secure, state-of-the-art application and servicing platforms to drive growth for the Company's client partners. Presenting a very wide market opportunity of new entrants and existing players, consumer lending is expected to be a growth area. In both backup servicing and full servicing partnerships, the Company is a valuable resource for consumer lenders and asset holders as it allows for leveraged economies of scale, high compliance, and secure service to client partners.
As of December 31, 2023, NDS serviced private education and consumer loans on behalf of 28 third-party servicing customers.
In January 2024, Discover announced they were moving the servicing of its approximately $10 billion private education loan portfolio, representing approximately 500,000 borrowers, to the Company. The timing of the conversion of these loans to the Company’s platform is dependent on the timing of Discover’s potential sale of its portfolio.
Providing backup servicing for FFELP, private education, and consumer loans
NDS offers protection against unexpected business failure, or any event that stretches a third-party service provider’s resources beyond its capability to perform essential services, through backup servicing. Backup servicing for loan asset owners, investors, financiers, and other stakeholders is a way to safeguard assets and mitigate financial risk, generally in conjunction with a structured long-term financing of the assets (like an asset-backed securitization).
NDS’s backup service provides a trigger response plan with pre-built system profiles that remain on standby, ready to be utilized if a contracted asset manager or service provider cannot perform its duties. The Company performs testing and maintenance against the loan transfer process each month with backup clients and certifies compliance. For a monthly fee, these arrangements require a 30 to 90 day notice from a triggering event to transfer the customer's servicing volume to the Company's platform and becoming a full servicing customer. NDS offers backup servicing for FFELP, private education, and consumer loans that leverages existing servicing systems and full service experience.
As of December 31, 2023, NDS provided backup servicing arrangements to nine entities for more than 26 million borrowers.
Providing student loan servicing software and other information technology products and services
NDS provides student loan servicing software for servicing federal and private education loans, guaranty servicing software, data center services, and consulting and professional services to support the technology platforms. These proprietary software systems are used internally by the Company and/or licensed to third-party student loan holders and servicers. These software systems have been adapted so they can be offered as hosted servicing software solutions that can be used by third parties for guaranty servicing and to service various types of student loans, including Federal Direct Loan Program and FFEL Program
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loans. The Company earns a monthly fee from its remote hosting customers for each loan or unique borrower on the Company's platform, with a minimum monthly charge for most contracts. As of December 31, 2023 and 2022, 0.1 million and 6.1 million borrowers, respectively, were hosted on the Company's hosted servicing software solution platforms.
During 2023, the Company’s two Department remote hosted servicing borrowers, representing 6.0 million borrowers as of December 31, 2022, were transferred to other servicers. These transfer decisions were not based on the Company’s performance. The Company has executed an agreement with a third-party servicer awarded a USDS contract with the Department to license its servicing software to such entity and the Company will earn remote hosted servicing revenue from this new customer when USDS goes live, which is anticipated to be in the second quarter of 2024.
Providing outsourced services including call center, processing, and technology services
NDS provides business process outsourcing primarily specializing in contact center management. The contact center solutions and services include taking inbound calls, helping with outreach campaigns and sales, and interacting with customers through multi-channels. Processing services include application processing and verification, payment processing, credit dispute, and account management services. NDS also outsources technology expertise and capacity to supplement development needs in organizations. As of December 31, 2023, NDS provided business process and technology outsourcing to 11 customers.
Competition
We believe the Company's scalable servicing platform allows it to provide compliant, efficient, and reliable service at a low cost, giving the Company a competitive advantage over others in the industry. The Company has segmented its private education loan servicing on a distinct platform, created specifically to meet the needs of private education student loan borrowers, their families, the schools they attend, and the lenders who serve them. This ensures access to specialized teams with a dedicated focus on servicing these borrowers.
NDS is one of the leaders in the development of servicing software for guaranty agencies, consumer and private education loan programs, the Federal Direct Loan Program, and FFELP student loans. Many student loan lenders and servicers utilize the Company's software either directly or indirectly. NDS believes the investments it has made to scale its systems and to create a secure infrastructure to support the Department's servicing volume and requirements increase its competitive advantage as a long-term partner in the loan servicing market.
Education Technology Services and Payments
NBS is a service and technology company that operates as the following divisions:
FACTS
Nelnet Campus Commerce
Nelnet Payment Services
Nelnet International
The majority of this segment’s customers are located in the United States; however, the Company also provides services and technology as part of its Nelnet International division primarily in Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia, and believes there are opportunities to increase its customer base and revenues internationally.
See the MD&A – “Education Technology Services and Payments Operating Segment – Results of Operations” for an overview of the seasonality of the business in this operating segment.
A more detailed description of each NBS division is provided below. For a presentation of NBS revenue disaggregated by service offering into tuition payment plan services revenue, payment processing revenue, and education technology services revenue, see the MD&A – “Education Technology Services and Payments Operating Segment – Results of Operations – Summary and Comparison of Operating Results – Education technology services and payments revenue.” In the discussion below, revenues from the described products and services are included in education technology services revenue in such presentation, unless specifically indicated otherwise.
FACTS
NBS uses the FACTS brand in the K-12 private and faith-based markets. FACTS provides solutions that elevate the K-12 education experience for school administrators, teachers, and families. FACTS solutions include the following products:
Financial Management
School Management
Learning Management
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The combination of the Company’s financial, school, and learning management products has significantly increased the value of the Company’s offerings and allows the Company to deliver a comprehensive suite of solutions to schools. FACTS provides services for nearly 12,000 K-12 schools and serves over 4.5 million students and families. FACTS generated $298 million and $248 million in revenue for the years ended December 31, 2023 and 2022, respectively.
Financial Management - FACTS is the market leader in education financial management with services in the following categories:
Tuition Management
Grant & Aid
Advanced Accounting
Incidental Billing
Payment Forms
FACTS Giving
K-12 educational institutions contract with the Company to administer tuition payment plans that allow families to make recurring payments generally over six to 12 months. The Company earns tuition payment plan services revenue by collecting a fee from either the institution or the payer to administer the plan. Additionally, the Company may earn payment processing revenue when families make tuition payments. The Company’s grant and aid assessment service helps K-12 schools evaluate and determine the amount of financial aid to disburse to the families it serves. The Company earns service revenue by charging a fee for grant and aid applications processed.
The Company’s advanced accounting services create efficiencies in school accounting processes with a single system that captures and tracks all tuition and fees. Incidental billing allows schools to bill families for fees that fall outside of regular tuition costs. Payment Forms allows schools to create forms for event registrations and permissions coupled with an automated way to collect payments.
The Company’s giving solution is a comprehensive donation platform that streamlines donor communications, organizes donor information, and provides access to data analysis and reporting. The Company earns subscription fees and payment processing revenues for these services.
School Management - The Company’s school management solutions include the following products:
Student Information System (SIS)
Family App
Parent Alert
Application & Enrollment
School Site
FACTS SIS automates the flow of information between school administrators, teachers, and parents and includes administrative processes such as scheduling, cafeteria management, attendance, and grade book management. Family App provides families with mobile access to the information they need and Parent Alert allows for instant communication with families when needed. The Company’s SIS, Family App, and Parent Alert are sold as a subscription service to schools.
Application & Enrollment provides a paperless experience for the admissions office and provides schools with real-time information as applications and enrollment forms are completed. The Company earns a fee per completed application and/or enrollment form.
FACTS School Site is a website content management system for schools to promote and share information with current and prospective families.
Learning Management - The Company’s learning management solutions include the following products:
Learning Management System
Content Development
Professional Development and Coaching
School Evaluation & Observation
Instructional Services
ESSA Consulting
The Company’s learning management system uses innovations such as extended enterprise, social collaborations, and gamification to expand capabilities and engage and motivate learners. In-person and online training and certification is managed with simplified reporting, tracking, and record maintenance. FACTS’ technologies allow customers to update certificate programs or create new custom learning programs to meet emerging needs. The Company earns subscription and content creation fees for these services. Additionally, a fee may be earned from learners completing course offerings.
The Company provides customized professional development and coaching services for teachers and school leaders as well as instructional services for students experiencing academic challenges. The Company also offers an innovative technology product that aids in both teacher and student evaluation. These services provide continuous advanced learning and professional development while helping private schools identify and attain equitable participation in Title I and Title II federal education programs under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Due to the increases in federal pandemic-related funds supporting K-12 education under the Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (EANS) program, the Company has experienced a
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spike in schools asking for services in these areas. One EANS award period ended September 30, 2023 and the final EANS award period ends September 30, 2024, which will have a significant adverse impact to education technology services revenue in future periods.
Nelnet Campus Commerce
NBS uses the Nelnet Campus Commerce brand to offer payment technologies to higher education institutions. Nelnet Campus Commerce offers the following products:
Tuition Management
Integrated Commerce
Nelnet Campus Commerce provides service for over 1,000 colleges and universities worldwide and serves over 8 million students and families. Nelnet Campus Commerce generated $129 million and $113 million in revenue for the years ended December 31, 2023 and 2022, respectively.
Tuition Management Higher education institutions contract with the Company to administer tuition payment plans that allow the student and family to make recurring payments on either a semester or annual basis. The Company earns tuition payment plan services revenue by collecting a fee from either the student or family to administer the plan. Additionally, the Company may earn payment processing revenue when families make tuition payments.
Nelnet Billing & Payments allows schools to send automated bills for tuition and fees, housing, parking, and other campus service offerings and allows students to safely make online payments from anywhere. Nelnet Refunds helps schools stay compliant with federal refund regulations and allows students choice in their refund method. The Company earns hosting, per transaction, and credit card processing fees for its Nelnet Billing & Payments and Nelnet Refunds products. Credit card processing fees are included in payment processing revenue.
Integrated Commerce – Nelnet Campus Commerce integrated commerce solutions help schools maintain revenue sources across campuses including in-person payments, online shopping experiences, and a mobile app. Nelnet Storefront provides online stores for departments across campuses with consolidated views and management by the business office. Nelnet Cashiering allows higher education institutions to manage all in-person payments on campus. Nelnet Checkout streamlines all payments through one system and provides a common make-a-payment experience. The Company earns hosting, per transaction, and credit card processing fees for its integrated commerce solutions. Credit card processing fees are included in payment processing revenue.
Nelnet Payment Services
NBS uses the Nelnet Payment Services brand to provide secure payment processing technology. Nelnet Payment Services supports and provides payment processing services, including credit card and electronic transfers, to the other divisions of NBS and Nelnet in addition to other third-party industries and software platforms across the United States. Nelnet Payment Services offers mobile, in-person, and online solutions for customers to collect, process, and view credit card and Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments. Services rendered by Nelnet Payment Services are Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant. Nelnet Payment Services earns payment processing revenues through fees for credit card and ACH transactions. Nelnet Payment Services generated $55 million and $50 million in revenue for the years ended December 31, 2023 and 2022, respectively.
Nelnet International
NBS uses the Nelnet International brand to serve customers in the education, local government, and health care industries. Nelnet International products include services and technology that align with the similarly named product categories for FACTS and Nelnet Campus Commerce. Nelnet International offers the following products:
Integrated Commerce
Financial Management
School Management

Nelnet International provides its services and technology to schools in 64 countries, with the largest concentrations in Australia, New Zealand, and the Asia-Pacific region. Nelnet International generated $8 million and $7 million in revenue for the years ended December 31, 2023 and 2022, respectively.
Integrated Commerce – Nelnet International’s Xetta platform provides commerce payment solutions to its customers. Xetta captures and centralizes financial information across organizations and integrates with core business systems to simplify
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workflows, expand payment capabilities, streamline reconciliation, reduce security and compliance risk, and provide reporting and analytics. The Company earns subscription and consulting fees for the utilization of the Xetta platform.
Financial Management – Tuition payment plans and other financial management services are provided to customers internationally using the FACTS brand and service platforms. Refer to “Financial Management” under the FACTS division for additional information.
School Management – PCSchool is a cloud-based school management platform that provides administrative, information management, financial management, and communication functions for K-12 schools in Australia and New Zealand. Outside of Australia and New Zealand, Nelnet International provides administration products under the FACTS brand. The technology and services provided are consistent with the School Management products described under the FACTS division. The Company earns subscription fees and per transaction revenues for providing these services.
Competition
The Company is the largest provider of tuition management and financial needs assessment services to the private and faith-based K-12 market in the United States. Competitors include financial institutions, tuition management providers, financial needs assessment providers, accounting firms, and a myriad of software companies.
In the higher education market, the Company targets business offices at colleges and universities. In this market, the primary competition is from a relatively small number of campus commerce and tuition payment providers, as well as solutions developed in-house by colleges and universities.
The Company believes its principal competitive advantages are (i) the customer service it provides to institutions and consumers, (ii) the technology provided with the Company's service, and (iii) the Company's ability to integrate its technology with the institution clients and their third-party service providers. The Company believes its clients select products primarily based on technology features, functionality, and the ability to integrate with other systems, but price and service also impact the selection process.
Nelnet Financial Services
The Company formally established the Nelnet Financial Services division in 2023 intended to focus on the Company’s key objective to maximize the amount and timing of cash flows generated from its FFELP portfolio and reposition itself for the post-FFELP environment by expanding its private education, consumer, and other loan portfolios.
The creation of NFS resulted in financial results grouped and reported differently to the Company’s chief operating decision maker. In addition to the reportable operating segments of AGM and Nelnet Bank being part of the NFS division, NFS’s other operating segments that are not reportable (that were previously included in Corporate and Other Activities) include:
The operating results of Whitetail Rock Capital Management, LLC (WRCM), the Company's U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)-registered investment advisor subsidiary
The operating results of Nelnet Insurance Services, which primarily includes multiple reinsurance treaties on property and causality policies
The operating results of the Company’s investment activities in real estate
The operating results of the Company’s investment debt securities (primarily student loan and other asset-backed securities) and interest expense incurred on debt used to finance such investments
Asset Generation and Management
AGM includes the acquisition, management, and ownership of the Company's loan assets (excluding loan assets held by Nelnet Bank). Loans consist of federally insured student (originated under the FFEL Program), private education, consumer, and other loans, including investment interests therein. As of December 31, 2023, AGM's loan portfolio was $12.0 billion.
Substantially all of AGM’s loan portfolio (97.0% as of December 31, 2023) is federally insured. The Company earns net interest income on its loan portfolio, and generates a substantial portion of its earnings from the spread, referred to as “loan spread,” between the yield it receives on its loan portfolio and the associated costs to finance such portfolio. See the MD&A - "Nelnet Financial Services Division - Results of Operations - Asset Generation and Management Operating Segment - Loan Spread Analysis,” for further details related to loan spread. In addition to the loan spread earned on its portfolio, all costs and activity associated with managing the portfolio, such as servicing of the assets and debt maintenance, are included in this reportable operating segment.
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Origination and acquisition
Since all FFELP loans will eventually pay off, as new FFELP loans are not being originated, a key objective of the Company is to maximize the amount and timing of cash flows generated from its FFELP portfolio and reposition itself for the post-FFELP environment. As such, the Company is actively acquiring private education, consumer, and other loans, or investment interests therein (see below under “Beneficial interest in loan securitizations”), and plans to expand these portfolios. During 2023, the Company purchased $556.1 million of private education, consumer, and other non-FFELP loans. AGM's competition for the purchase of loan portfolios includes banks, hedge funds, and other finance companies.
Credit risk
AGM's portfolio of federally insured student loans is subject to minimal credit risk, as these loans are guaranteed by the Department at levels ranging from 97% to 100%. The Higher Education Act regulates every aspect of the federally insured student loan program. Failure to service a student loan properly could jeopardize the guarantee on federal student loans. In the case of death, disability, or bankruptcy of the borrower, the guarantee covers 100% of the loan's principal and accrued interest. FFELP loans are guaranteed by state agencies or nonprofit companies designated as guarantors, with the Department providing reinsurance to the guarantor. Guarantors are responsible for performing certain functions necessary to ensure the program's soundness and accountability. Generally, the guarantor is responsible for ensuring that loans are serviced in compliance with the requirements of the Higher Education Act. When a borrower defaults on a FFELP loan, the servicer submits a claim to the guarantor, who provides reimbursements of principal and accrued interest, subject to the applicable risk share percentage.
AGM’s private education, consumer, and other loans are unsecured, with neither a government nor a private insurance guarantee. Accordingly, the Company bears the full risk of loss on these loans if the borrower and co-borrower, if applicable, default, which increases the Company’s exposure to credit risk.
Interest rate risk management
Since the Company generates a significant portion of its earnings from its loan spread, the interest rate sensitivity of the Company's balance sheet is very important to its operations. The current and future interest rate environment can and will affect the Company's interest income and net income. The effects on the Company's results of operations as a result of the changing interest rate environments are further outlined in the MD&A - "Nelnet Financial Services Division - Results of Operations - Asset Generation and Management Operating Segment - Loan Spread Analysis" and in Part II, Item 7A, “Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk - Interest Rate Risk - AGM Operating Segment.”
Beneficial interest in loan securitizations
AGM has partial ownership in consumer, private education, and federally insured student loan third-party securitizations that are classified as "beneficial interest in loan securitizations" and included in "investments and notes receivable" on the Company's consolidated balance sheets. The Company’s partial ownership in each loan securitization grants the Company the right to receive the corresponding percentage of cash flows generated by the securitization. These residual interests were acquired by AGM or have been received in consideration of AGM selling portfolios of loans to unrelated third parties who securitized such loans. As of the latest remittance reports filed by the various trusts prior to or as of December 31, 2023, the Company's ownership correlates to approximately $1.76 billion of loans included in these securitizations.
Nelnet Bank
Nelnet Bank operates as an internet industrial bank franchise with a home office in Salt Lake City, Utah. Nelnet Bank is governed by a board of directors, a majority of the members of which are independent of the Company. As a consolidated subsidiary of the Company, the Bank’s assets, liabilities, results of operations, and cash flows are reflected in the Company’s consolidated financial statements, and the industrial bank charter allows the Company to maintain its other diversified business offerings.
Loans
Nelnet Bank serves a niche market, with a concentration in the private education and unsecured consumer loan markets. Currently, Nelnet Bank offers refinance private education loan options to borrowers that have higher priced private education and/or federal student loan debt and in-school private education loans to students attending higher education institutions. Unsecured consumer loans consist of home improvement loans and refinance loans for consumers to consolidate credit card and other general-purpose debt. Nelnet Bank extends consumer loans to borrowers in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. As of December 31, 2023, Nelnet Bank’s loan portfolio was $432.9 million.
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Deposits
Nelnet Bank’s deposits are interest-bearing and consist of brokered certificates of deposit (CDs), retail and other savings deposits and CDs, and intercompany deposits. Retail and other savings deposits include deposits from Educational 529 College Savings and Health Savings plans, Short Term Federal Investment Trusts (STFIT), and commercial and institutional CDs. The intercompany deposits are deposits from Nelnet, Inc. (parent company) and its subsidiaries and include a pledged deposit of $40.0 million from Nelnet, Inc., as required under a Capital and Liquidity Maintenance Agreement with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), deposits required for intercompany transactions, operating deposits, and NBS custodial deposits consisting of tuition payments collected which are subsequently remitted to the appropriate school. As of December 31, 2023, Nelnet Bank had $847.6 million of deposits, of which $104.0 million were intercompany deposits. All intercompany deposits held at Nelnet Bank are eliminated for consolidated financial reporting purposes.
NFS Other Operating Segments
Whitetail Rock Capital Management, LLC
Whitetail Rock Capital Management, a majority-owned subsidiary of the Company, is an SEC-registered investment advisor. As of December 31, 2023, WRCM had $3.3 billion in assets under management for third-party customers, consisting of student loan asset-backed securities ($2.6 billion) and Nelnet stock ($0.7 billion) - primarily shares of Class B common stock. WRCM's core assets under management are FFELP asset-backed securities. Accordingly, WRCM is beginning to transition away from FFELP asset-backed securities to additional asset-backed asset classes (consumer and collateralized loan obligations). WRCM earns annual management fees of 10 basis points to 25 basis points for asset-backed securities under management and a share of the gains from the sale of securities or securities being called prior to the full contractual maturity for which it provides advisory services. WRCM earns annual management fees of five basis points for Nelnet stock under management. During 2023, WRCM earned $6.2 million and $0.5 million in management and performance fees, respectively.
Nelnet Insurance Services
The Company launched a wholly-owned captive insurance subsidiary in 2013 to provide insurance to Nelnet, Inc. and its subsidiaries. The captive insurance company’s capital has grown over the years to $21.3 million as of December 31, 2023. Nelnet Insurance Services, the Company’s operating segment established to include all the Company’s insurance products, entered into multiple reinsurance treaties with third parties on property and casualty policies in 2022 to leverage the captive insurance company’s capital. Reinsurance is an arrangement under which the Company has agreed to indemnify an insurance company, the “ceding company,” for a portion of the insurance and/or investment risks underwritten by the ceding company. As of December 31, 2023, the Company has five treaties that reinsure risk on roughly 70 different insurance programs issued by four carriers. The Company has also entered into arrangements to cede a portion of its exposure, typically 50%, to a third party.
For the year ended December 31, 2023, the Company recognized $20.1 million in reinsurance premiums (net of $21.5 million retroceded to a third party). In addition to premium revenue, the Company earns investment income on its capital and cash premiums it receives, until such amounts are paid out for claims. If premiums exceed the total amount of expenses and eventual losses, the Company recognizes an underwriting profit that adds to the investment income earned.
Investments - real estate
As of December 31, 2023, the Company has approximately 40 real estate investments across the United States with a carrying value of $103.8 million. For the majority of its real estate investments, the Company partners with a third-party co-investor that (i) has asset-specific and/or geographic expertise of the underlying property and (ii) manages the day-to-day operations. The Company’s real estate portfolio includes commercial properties, including office space, industrial, multifamily, and mixed-use properties.
Investment portfolio - debt securities
The Company invests excess cash in debt securities, primarily student loan and other asset-backed securities. Included in NFS’s debt securities portfolio are certain of the Company’s own asset-backed securities (bonds and notes payable) that were issued to finance student loans that the Company repurchased in the secondary market. For accounting purposes, these notes are eliminated in consolidation and are not included in the Company’s consolidated financial statements. However, these securities remain legally outstanding at the trust level and the Company could sell these notes to third parties or redeem the notes at par as cash is generated by the trust estate. As of December 31, 2023, the par value and fair value of the Company’s debt securities held in the NFS division, including its own asset backed securities, was $905.1 million and $828.5 million, respectively. The Company has entered into repurchase agreements (debt), the proceeds of which are collateralized by the asset-backed securities (bond investments). As of December 31, 2023, the Company had $208.2 million of repurchase agreements outstanding that were collateralized by $251.2 million (fair value) of asset-backed securities investments.
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Corporate and Other Activities
Other business activities and operating segments that are not reportable and not part of the NFS division are combined and included in Corporate and Other Activities. Corporate and Other Activities include the following items:
Shared service activities related to internal audit, human resources, accounting, legal, enterprise risk management, information technology, occupancy, and marketing. These costs are allocated to each operating segment based on estimated use of such activities and services
Corporate costs and overhead functions not allocated to operating segments, including executive management, investments in innovation, and other holding company organizational costs
The operating results of Nelnet Renewable Energy, which include solar tax equity investments made by the Company, administrative and management services provided by the Company on tax equity investments made by third parties, and solar construction and development
The operating results of certain of the Company’s investment activities, including its investment in ALLO and early-stage and emerging growth companies (venture capital investments)
Interest income earned on cash balances held at the corporate level and interest expense incurred on unsecured corporate related debt transactions
Other product and service offerings that are not considered reportable operating segments
Nelnet Renewable Energy
As of December 31, 2023, the Company has invested a total of $271.9 million (which excludes $198.8 million syndicated to third-party investors) in tax equity investments in renewable energy solar partnerships to support the development and operations of solar projects throughout the country. These investments provide a federal income tax credit under the Internal Revenue Code, equaling 30% to 40% of the eligible project cost, with the tax credit available when the project is placed-in-service. The Company is then allowed to reduce its tax estimates paid to the U.S. Treasury based on the credits earned. In addition to the credits, the Company structures the investments to receive quarterly distributions of cash from the operating earnings of the solar project for a period of at least five years (so the tax credits are not recaptured). After that period, the contractual agreements typically provide for the Company’s interest in the projects to be purchased in an exit at the fair market value of the discounted forecasted future cash flows allocable to the Company. Given the expected timing of cash flows and experience the Company has in underwriting these assets, the Company considers these investments a good use of its capital when looking at its capital deployment initiatives.
In addition to making these tax equity investments for the Company’s own portfolio, the Company is syndicating these investments with co-investors with similar tax attributes. The Company has developed expertise in sourcing, underwriting, closing, and managing these investments and believes it has strong relationships with solar developers throughout the country. The Company invests at least 10% in each investment transaction, with its co-investment partners taking the remaining share. The Company earns an upfront management fee based on the amount of capital contributed by the co-investor. The management fee is recognized as income over the duration of the investment (typically five years). In addition, a performance fee is earned and recognized by the Company upon the co-investor’s exit from the investment. The aggregate of the management and performance fees earned from co-investors is typically five to six percent of the capital invested. The Company raised and invested a total of $94.5 million during 2023 on behalf of its co-investors. Due to the management and control of each of these investment partnerships, such partnerships that invest in tax equity investments are consolidated on the Company’s consolidated financial statements, with the co-investor’s portion being presented as noncontrolling interests.
In addition to solar tax equity investments, the Company has a strategy to own solar energy project assets. These assets provide long-term, predictable, and recurring cash flows based on energy production and energy sales to entities, such as utilities, governmental bodies, commercial companies, educational institutions, multi-family landlords, and health care groups. Accordingly, the Company has begun to execute a multi-faceted approach to construct, finance, own, and operate these assets. As part of this strategy, on July 1, 2022, the Company acquired 80% of the ownership interest of two subsidiaries of GRNE Solutions, LLC named GRNE-Nelnet, LLC (GRNE) and ENRG-Nelnet, LLC (ENRG) (collectively referred to as “GRNE Solar”). GRNE is a solar construction company and ENRG is a solar development company. During 2023, the Company rebranded GRNE Solar to gain greater leverage with its overall brand, Nelnet Renewable Energy.
The Company’s solar construction company provides full-service engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) services to residential homes and commercial entities and contracts to build solar on a fixed fee basis. The development company performs services such as site control, permitting, execution of power purchase agreements, utility interconnections, construction oversight, project finance, and other ancillary services to enable a successful solar photovoltaic project.
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Investments
The Company makes investments to further diversify itself both within and outside of its historical core education-related businesses, including investments in ALLO and early-stage and emerging growth companies (venture capital investments).
ALLO
The Company provided fiber communication services through ALLO, a former majority-owned subsidiary, until a recapitalization in 2020 resulted in a deconsolidation of ALLO from the Company’s consolidated financial statements. The Company continues to hold a significant investment in ALLO.
ALLO derives its revenue primarily from the sale of telecommunication services, including internet, telephone, and television services to business, governmental, and residential customers in Nebraska, Colorado, and Arizona, and specializes in high-speed internet and broadband services available through its all-fiber network. As of December 31, 2023, ALLO serves 34 communities and is currently in the process of building their network in 11 communities. The total households in these communities is approximately 440,000. As of December 31, 2023, ALLO served more than 109,000 residential customers and had almost 49,000 business lines, increases from more than 90,000 and nearly 41,000 as of December 31, 2022, respectively. For the year ended December 31, 2023, ALLO recognized approximately $150 million in revenue. ALLO uses debt to fund a portion of its operations and capital needs. As of December 31, 2023, ALLO had approximately $715 million of debt outstanding, an increase from approximately $340 million as of December 31, 2022. ALLO plans to continue to increase market share and revenue in its existing markets and plans to expand to additional communities.
The Company accounts for its approximately 45% voting membership interests in ALLO under the Hypothetical Liquidation at Book Value (HLBV) method of accounting. As of December 31, 2023, the carrying amount of the Company’s voting membership interests was $10.7 million. The Company believes the fair value of its voting membership interests in ALLO is significantly greater than its carrying value. The Company also holds non-voting preferred membership interests in ALLO, which it accounts for as a separate equity investment. The non-voting preferred membership interests of ALLO currently earns a preferred annual return of 6.25% that will increase to 10.0% in April 2024. The accrued preferred return capitalizes to preferred membership interests annually on each December 31. As of December 31, 2023, the carrying amount of the Company’s preferred membership interests was $155.0 million.
Venture capital investments
The Company has invested in early-stage and emerging growth companies and various funds. As of December 31, 2023, the Company has investments in 91 entities and funds and the carrying value of such investments was $285.5 million. The largest investment in the Company’s venture capital portfolio is Agile Sports Technologies, Inc. (doing business as “Hudl.”) As of December 31, 2023, the carrying value of the Company’s investment in Hudl was $165.5 million. The Company accounts for its investment in Hudl using the measurement alternative of cost minus impairment, if any, plus or minus changes resulting from observable price changes in orderly transactions for the identical or a similar investment of the same issuer. The Company believes the fair value of its ownership in Hudl is significantly greater than its carrying value. Hudl is a leading sports performance analysis company, and its software provides more than 230,000 teams across 40 sports and in 150 countries the insights to be more competitive. David S. Graff, a member of the Company’s Board of Directors, is a co-founder, the chief executive officer, and a director of Hudl.
Regulation and Supervision
The Company's operating segments and industry partners are heavily regulated by federal and state government regulatory agencies. The following provides a summary of the more significant existing and proposed legislation and regulations affecting the Company. A failure to comply with these laws and regulations could subject the Company to substantial fines, penalties, and remedial and other costs, restrictions on business, and the loss of business. Regulations and supervision can change rapidly, and changes could alter the Company's business plans and increase the Company's operating expenses as new or additional regulatory compliance requirements are addressed.
Loan Servicing and Systems
NDS, which services Federal Direct Loan Program, FFELP, private education, and consumer loans, is subject to federal and state consumer protection, privacy, and related laws and regulations. Some of the more significant federal laws and regulations include:
The Higher Education Act, which establishes financial responsibility and administrative capability requirements that govern all third-party servicers of federally insured student loans
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which governs communication methods that may be used to contact customers
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The Truth-In-Lending Act (TILA) and Regulation Z, which govern disclosures of credit terms to consumer borrowers
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Regulation V, which govern the use and provision of information to consumer reporting agencies
The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and Regulation B, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, creed, or other prohibited factors in extending credit
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which applies to all debts incurred prior to commencement of active military service and limits the amount of interest, including certain fees or charges that are related to the obligation or liability
The Military Lending Act (MLA), which protects active-duty members of the military, their spouses, and their dependents from certain lending practices
The Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA) and Regulation E, which protect individual consumers engaged in electronic fund transfers (EFTs)
The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) and Regulation P, which govern a financial institution’s treatment of nonpublic personal information about consumers and require that an institution, under certain circumstances, notify consumers about its privacy policies and practices
The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), which enhances the privacy rights and consumer protection for residents of California
The Federal Bankruptcy laws Title 11 of the U.S. Code, which provides for the reduction or elimination of certain debts
The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN), which allows the use of electronic records if the consumer has affirmatively consented to such use and has not withdrawn such consent
Laws prohibiting unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices (UDAAP)
Anti-Money Laundering (AML) laws and regulations designed to detect and prevent money laundering and terrorist financing
Regulations administered and enforced by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which is a U.S. government agency that administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions
Various laws, regulations, and standards that govern government contractors
As a student loan servicer for the federal government and for financial institutions, including the Company’s FFELP student loan portfolio, the Company is subject to the Higher Education Act (HEA) and related laws, rules, regulations, and policies. The Company is subject to oversight by the Department through the Federal Student Aid Office and the Financial Institution Oversight Service (FIOS) division. The HEA regulates every aspect of the federally insured student loan program. Failure to comply with the HEA could result in fines, the loss of the insurance and related federal guarantees on affected FFELP loans, expenses required to cure servicing deficiencies, suspension or termination of the right to participate as a FFELP servicer, negative publicity, and potential legal claims. The Company has designed its servicing operations to comply with the HEA, and it regularly monitors the Company's operations to maintain compliance. While the HEA is required to be reviewed and reauthorized by Congress every five years, Congress has not reauthorized the HEA since 2008, choosing to temporarily extend the HEA each year since 2013 while Congress works on the next reauthorization. The Company monitors for potential changes to the HEA and evaluates possible impacts to its business operations.
The Company’s New Government Servicing Contract that became effective April 24, 2023 requires us to comply with the Federal Acquisition Regulations, which regulates the procurement, award, administration, and performance of U.S. government contracts.
Under the TCPA, plaintiffs may seek actual monetary loss or damages of $500 per violation, and courts may treble the damage award for willful or knowing violations. In addition, TCPA lawsuits have asserted putative class action claims.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act”) established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which has broad authority to regulate a wide range of consumer financial products and services. The Company's student loan servicing business is subject to CFPB supervision and oversight authority.
The CFPB has authority to draft new regulations implementing federal consumer financial protection laws, to enforce those laws and regulations, and to conduct examinations and investigations of the Company's operations to determine compliance. The CFPB’s authority includes the ability to assess financial penalties and fines and provide for restitution to consumers if it determines there have been violations of consumer financial protection laws. The CFPB also provides consumer financial education, tracks consumer complaints, requests data from industry participants, and promotes the availability of financial services to underserved consumers and communities. The CFPB has authority to prevent unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or
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practices and to ensure that all consumers have access to fair, transparent, and competitive markets for consumer financial products and services. The CFPB’s scrutiny of financial services has impacted industry participants’ approach to their services, including how the Company interacts with consumers.
The Dodd-Frank Act empowers state attorneys general and state regulators to bring civil actions to remedy violations of state law. Most states also have statutes that prohibit unfair and deceptive practices. To the extent states enact requirements that differ from federal standards or state officials and courts adopt interpretations of federal consumer laws that differ from those adopted by the CFPB under the Dodd-Frank Act, the Company's ability to offer the same products and services to consumers nationwide may be limited.
As a third-party service provider to financial institutions, the Company is subject to the standards set by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC). FFIEC is a formal interagency body of the U.S. government empowered to prescribe uniform principles, standards, and report forms for the federal examination of financial institutions by the Federal Reserve Banks, the FDIC, and the CFPB, and to make recommendations to promote uniformity in the supervision of financial institutions.
Data privacy and security standards, laws, and regulations that may apply to the Company, such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication 800-53, Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), FTC Safeguards Rule, and New York Codes, Rules, and Regulations (NYCRR) Chapter 23 part 500, among others, are becoming more rigorous. In addition, data security and breach incident response continues to be a focus for policymakers at the federal and state levels. Any actual or perceived non-compliance with such obligations by the Company or third-party service providers could result in proceedings, investigations, or claims against the Company by federal and/or state regulatory authorities, customers, or others, leading to reputational harm, higher liability and indemnity obligations, significant fines, litigation costs, or additional reporting requirements or oversight.
Many states have enacted laws regulating and monitoring the activity of student loan servicers. Some of these laws stipulate additional licensing fees which increase the Company’s cost of doing business. Where the Company has obtained licenses, state licensing statutes may impose a variety of requirements and restrictions on the Company. In addition, these statutes may also subject the Company to the supervisory and examination authority of state regulators in certain cases, and the Company will be subject to and experience exams by state regulators. If the Company is found to not have complied with applicable laws, regulations, or requirements, it could: (i) lose one or more of its licenses or authorizations, (ii) become subject to a consent order or administrative enforcement action, (iii) face lawsuits (including class action lawsuits), sanctions, or penalties, or (iv) be in breach of certain contracts, which may void or cancel such contracts. The Company anticipates additional states adopting similar laws.
Education Technology Services and Payments
NBS provides tuition management services, payment processing solutions, and school information software for K-12 schools and tuition management services and payment processing solutions for higher education institutions. The Company also provides payment technologies and payment services for software platforms, businesses, and nonprofits beyond the K-12 and higher education space. As a service provider that takes payment instructions from institutions and their constituents and sends them to bank partners, the Company is directly or indirectly subject to a variety of federal and state laws and regulations. The Company's contracts with clients and bank partners may require the Company to comply with these laws and regulations.
The Company's payment processing services are subject to the EFTA and Regulation E, which govern automatic deposits to and withdrawals from deposit accounts, and customers’ rights and liabilities arising from the use of debit cards and certain other electronic banking services. The Company assists bank partners with fulfilling their compliance obligations pursuant to these requirements.
The Company's payment processing services are also subject to the National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA) requirements, which include operating rules and risk management procedures to govern the use of the ACH Network. These rules are designed to make the ACH Network efficient, reliable, and secure for its members. Because the ACH Network uses a batch process, the importance of proper submissions by NACHA members is magnified. The Company is also impacted by laws and regulations that affect the bankcard industry. The Company is registered with the card brand payment networks as a service provider and is subject to their respective rules.
The Company's higher education institution clients are subject to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects the privacy of student education records. These clients disclose certain non-directory information concerning their students to the Company, including contact information, student identification numbers, and the amount of students’ credit balances pursuant to one or more exceptions under FERPA. Additionally, as the Company is indirectly subject to FERPA, it may not permit the transfer of any personally identifiable information to another party other than in a manner in which an
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educational institution may properly disclose it. A breach of this prohibition could result in a five-year suspension of the Company's access to the related client’s records. The Company may also be subject to similar state laws and regulations that restrict higher education institutions from disclosing certain personally identifiable student information.
Some of the Company's K-12 and higher education institution clients choose to charge convenience fees to students, parents, or other payers who make online payments using a credit or debit card. Laws and regulations related to such fees vary from state to state and certain states have laws that to varying degrees prohibit the imposition of a surcharge on a cardholder who elects to use a credit or debit card in lieu of cash, check, or other means.
The Company's contracts with higher education institution clients also require the Company to comply with regulations promulgated by the Department regarding the handling of student financial aid funds received by institutions on behalf of their students under Title IV of the HEA. These regulations are designed to ensure students have convenient access to their Title IV funds, do not incur unreasonable fees, and are not led to believe they must open a financial account to receive such funds.
On September 14, 2023, the CFPB issued an industry and markets report specific to tuition payment plans in higher education. This report builds on other recent work by the CFPB including reports on financial products and services offered by colleges or in college settings and recent supervisory examinations of institutional student lenders. Based on the CFPB’s focus, the higher education industry may be required to make changes to their product offerings and disclosures. These changes may impact the products and services provided by NBS.
Nelnet Financial Services
Nelnet Bank
Nelnet Bank is a Utah industrial bank that is regulated by the FDIC and the Utah Department of Financial Institutions (UDFI). As an originator of private education and consumer loans, Nelnet Bank is subject to federal and state consumer protection, privacy, and related laws and regulations. In addition to having to comply with the majority of laws and regulations addressed in the Loan Servicing and Systems section, there are additional laws and regulations Nelnet Bank must follow. Some of the more significant laws and regulations applicable to Nelnet Bank include:
Regulation W and Federal Reserve Act Sections 23A and 23B, which prevents losses to a bank resulting from affiliate engagement and transfer of a bank’s federal deposit insurance safety net to an affiliate
Community Reinvestment Act, which encourages depository institutions to help meet the credit needs of the communities in which they operate
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act, which prevents unfair or deceptive acts or practices and ensures consumer privacy (including the Telephone Sales Rule, FTC Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising, and FTC Policy Statement Regarding Advertising Substantiation)
Regulation O, which places limits and conditions on credit extensions that a bank can offer to its executive officers, principal shareholders, directors, and related interests
Right to Financial Privacy Act, which establishes specific procedures that government authorities must follow when requesting a customer’s financial records from a bank or other financial institution
BSA/AML, which specifies the Bank’s commitment to compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act, Anti-Money Laundering (BSA/AML) laws and regulations, including the USA PATRIOT Act, that were enacted to require financial institutions in the United States to assist U.S. government agencies with detecting and preventing money laundering and terrorist financing
Regulation D, the Truth in Savings Act (reserve requirements), and Regulation DD (disclosure of deposit terms to customers) will be applicable to Nelnet Bank once consumer deposit products are launched, which is tentatively scheduled for the third quarter of 2024.
Corporate
Governmental bodies in the United States and abroad have adopted, or are considering the adoption of, data privacy laws and regulations that include requirements with respect to nonpublic personal information such as data minimization, purpose limitation, transparency, accountability, integrity, and confidentiality. For example, in the United States, certain of the Company’s operating segments and their financial institution clients are within the corresponding capacities in which they operate, subject to the FTC’s and the federal banking regulators’ privacy and information safeguarding requirements under the GLBA. The GLBA requires financial institutions to periodically disclose their privacy policies and practices relating to sharing such information and enables customers to opt out of the disclosing institution’s ability to share information with third parties
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under certain circumstances. Other federal and state laws and regulations also impact the Company’s ability to share certain information with affiliates and non-affiliates for marketing and/or non-marketing purposes, or to contact customers with marketing offers. The GLBA, under the Safeguards Rule, further requires financial institutions to implement a comprehensive information security program that includes administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to ensure the security and confidentiality of customer records and information. Depending on the Company operating segment and the capacities in which they operate, various other domestic federal laws with data privacy and protection requirements may also be relevant such as the FERPA and Fair Credit Reporting Act. Data privacy and data protection are also areas of increasing state legislative focus. For example, several states where the Company does business, including California, Virginia, Colorado, Connecticut, and Utah have adopted comprehensive data privacy laws. Similar comprehensive privacy laws may be adopted by other states where the Company does business. The federal government may also pass data privacy or data protection legislation. In addition, it is estimated that over 130 countries worldwide have instituted some form of privacy or data protection law. Of these laws, one of the prominent is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which applies to countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) notwithstanding the United Kingdom where the identical law was maintained but is specifically referred to as the UK GDPR. The GDPR contains extensive compliance obligations and provides for substantial penalties for non-compliance and has expansive extraterritorial scope that reaches beyond the boundaries of the EEA and the UK.
The Company’s renewable energy business is subject to and depends in significant part upon complex federal, state, and other laws and regulations, including the Inflation Reduction Act, which regulate and, in some instances, incentivize the production of renewable energy.
Intellectual Property
The Company owns numerous trademarks and service marks (“Marks”) to identify its various products and services. As of December 31, 2023, the Company has a significant number of registered Marks. The Company actively asserts its rights to these Marks when it believes infringement may exist. The Company believes its Marks have developed and continue to develop strong brand-name recognition in the industry and the consumer marketplace. The Company owns many copyright-protected works, including its various computer system codes and displays, websites, and marketing materials. The Company also has trade secret rights to many of its processes and strategies and its software product designs. The Company's software products are protected by both registered and common law copyrights, as well as strict confidentiality and ownership provisions placed in license agreements, which restrict the ability to copy, distribute, or improperly disclose the software products. The Company also has adopted internal procedures designed to protect the Company's intellectual property.
Human Capital Resources
The Company’s associates are critical to its success, and the executive team puts significant focus on human capital resources. In addition, the executive team regularly updates the Company’s Board of Directors and its committees on the operation and status of human capital trends and activities. Key areas of focus for the Company include:
Headcount data
Total associate headcount by reportable segment as of December 31, 2023, follows:
NumberPercent of total
NDS3,95552.5 %
NBS2,73636.2 
Nelnet Bank560.7 
AGM150.2 
Corporate and other78810.4 
 7,550100.0 %
None of the Company’s associates are covered by collective bargaining agreements. The Company is not involved in any material disputes with any of its associates, and the Company believes that relations with its associates are good.
Employee recruitment, engagement, and retention
The Company works diligently to attract the best talent from a diverse range of sources that are expected to meet the current and future demands of its businesses, and has established relationships with trade schools, universities, professional associations, and industry groups to proactively attract talent.
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In 2023, the Company conducted an associate culture survey using a leading outside firm that specializes in employee engagement. Eighty-eight percent of the Company’s associates participated in the survey. There were many questions, but the overarching goal of the survey was to determine overall associate engagement through understanding of how associates feel about working for the Company and if associates would recommend the Company as a great place to work. The results of the survey were an overall engagement score of 74 out of 100, which was slightly better than the survey provider’s industry benchmark. The Company’s management team collected all the feedback and is focusing on making associate-suggested changes so the Company becomes an even better place to work.
For 2023, associate voluntary turnover was 24%, a decrease from 25% in 2022 and 28% in 2021. The average associate has nearly eight years of service.
Diversity and inclusion
The Company embraces diversity among its associates, including their unique backgrounds, experiences, and talents, and the Company strives to cultivate a culture and vision that supports and enhances its ability to recruit, develop, and retain diverse talent at every level. The Company demonstrates its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion at the highest levels of the Company. The Company’s independent directors (seven in total) include four women and two directors that are members of racial/ethnic minorities.
As of December 31, 2023, the Company’s workforce was approximately 66% women. People of color, as defined by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's EEO-1 race and ethnicity categories for the U.S., represented approximately 33% of the Company’s workforce (based on associate self-identification), an increase from 29%, 27%, and 20% as of December 31, 2022, 2021, and 2020, respectively. The Company is making progress in the number of women and people of color working in leadership positions (defined by the Company as an associate with one or more direct reports) across the organization. As of December 31, 2023, women held 52% of leadership positions in the Company, and people of color held 11% of leadership positions in the Company, an increase from 8% as of December 31, 2020. The Company has acknowledged that people of color are underrepresented in leadership positions at Nelnet and is committed to fostering an inclusive workforce that reflects the diversity in the communities the Company serves and that provides opportunity for all associates to advance and thrive.
To further Nelnet’s objective of creating an inspiring work environment and furthering associate development, the Company developed and launched the Better Together Council (the “Council”), sponsored by the Chief Executive Officer and the Executive Director of People Services. This Council of 25 members represents locations, functions, and business segments across the entire Company. Its top priorities include:
Implementing a comprehensive diversity and inclusion learning and development plan to build awareness and drive inclusive behaviors;
Developing the Company’s diversity pipeline through recruiting, hiring, developing, mentoring, and retaining diverse top talent; and
Promoting a work environment that enables associates to feel safe to authentically express their ideas and perspectives and feel they belong.
The Council supports multiple highly active associate resource groups for racial and ethnic minorities, women, people with disabilities, and associates who identify as LGBTQIA+, where associates can go for community, support, and collaboration. The Council has partnered with Nelnet University, the Company’s learning and development program for associates, to launch a robust mentoring program. The program is available to all associates, prioritizing mentorships for associates from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. Associates participating in this program are partnered with tenured Nelnet leaders for guidance, support, and coaching. The Council has also provided training sessions for all associates on cultural competence and unconscious bias. In addition, the Company has changed new hire recruiting methods and strategies to increase pools of minority, women, veteran, and disabled candidates, and has created other programs focused on race and gender to increase diversity throughout the Company.
Talent, development, and training
The Company’s talent strategy is focused on attracting the best talent from a diverse range of sources, recognizing and rewarding associates for their performance, and continually developing, engaging, and retaining associates.
The Company is committed to the continued development of its people. Strategic talent reviews and succession planning occur on a planned cadence annually across all business areas. The executive team convenes meetings with senior leadership and the board of directors to review top enterprise talent. The Company continues to provide opportunities for associates to grow their careers internally, with 60% of open management positions filled internally during 2023.
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The Company provides a variety of professional, technical, and leadership training courses to help its associates grow in their current roles and build new skills and capabilities. The Company emphasizes individual development planning as part of its annual goal setting process, and offers mentoring programs, along with change management and project management upskilling opportunities. The Company has leadership development resources for all leaders across the organization and continues to build tools for leaders to develop their teams on the job and in roles to create new opportunities to learn and grow.
Training is provided in a number of formats to accommodate the learner’s style, location, and technological knowledge and access, including instructor-led courses and hundreds of online courses in the Company’s learning management system. The Company also offers tuition assistance to associates for degree programs, non-degree seeking individual classes, or certificate programs. During 2023, the Company paid almost $540,000 in tuition assistance for its associates.
Competitive pay, benefits, and wellness
The general compensation philosophy of the Company, as an organization that values the long-term success of its shareholders, customers, and associates, is that the Company will pay fair, competitive, and equitable compensation designed to encourage focus on the long-term performance objectives of the Company and is differentiated based on both the individual’s performance and the performance of his or her respective business segment. In carrying out this philosophy, the Company structures its overall compensation framework with the general objectives of encouraging equity ownership in the Company, savings, wellness, productivity, and innovation. In addition, total compensation is intended to be market competitive compared with select industry surveys, internally consistent, and aligned with the philosophy of a performance-based organization. The Company provides a comprehensive benefits package, opportunities for retirement savings, and a robust wellness program. The holistic wellness program focuses on four pillars: personal, professional, physical, and financial well-being.
Culture, values, and ethics
The Company believes acting ethically and responsibly is the right thing to do, and embraces core values of open, honest communication in work environments. The Company also believes it must do its part to improve the world for current and future generations; and as part of this philosophy, the Company contributes time, talent, and resources to strengthen the communities in which the Company does business and promotes the transition to a clean-energy economy. The Company’s associates participate in many initiatives focused on supporting and the sustainability of their communities, both financially and with their time.
Ethics are deeply embedded in the Company’s values and business processes. The Company has a Code of Ethics and Conduct that includes the Company’s core values and guiding principles by which every associate is expected to abide and honor. The Company regularly reinforces its commitment to ethics and integrity in associate communications, in its everyday actions, and in processes and controls. As part of the Company’s ongoing efforts to ensure its associates conduct business with the highest levels of ethics and integrity, the Company has compliance training programs. The Company also maintains an Ask Ethics email through which associates can raise concerns they may have about business behavior they do not feel comfortable discussing personally with managers or human resources personnel. In addition, the Company maintains a separate anonymous portal for any associate concerns about the Company's financial reporting, internal controls, and related matters.
Available Information
The Company's internet website address is www.nelnet.com, and the Company's investor relations website address is www.nelnetinvestors.com. Copies of the Company's annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to such reports are available on the Company's investor relations website free of charge as soon as reasonably practicable after such reports are filed with or furnished to the SEC. The Company routinely posts important information for investors on its investor relations website.
The Company has adopted a Code of Ethics and Conduct that applies to directors, officers, and associates, including the Company's principal executive officer and its principal financial and accounting officer, and has posted such Code of Ethics and Conduct on its investor relations website. Amendments to and waivers granted with respect to the Company's Code of Ethics and Conduct relating to its executive officers and directors, which are required to be disclosed pursuant to applicable securities laws and stock exchange rules and regulations, will also be posted on its investor relations website. The Company's Corporate Governance Guidelines, Audit Committee Charter, People Development and Compensation Committee Charter, Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee Charter, Risk and Finance Committee Charter, and Compliance Committee Charter are also posted on its investor relations website.
Information on the Company's websites is not incorporated by reference into this report and should not be considered part of this report.
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ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS
We and our businesses are subject to a variety of risks. This section discusses material risk factors that could adversely affect our financial results and condition, and an investment in us. Although this section highlights key risk factors, other risks may emerge at any time, and we cannot predict all risks or estimate the extent to which they may affect us.
Loan Portfolio
Our loan portfolios, and investment interests therein, are subject to prepayment risk, credit risk, and certain risks related to interest rates, and the derivatives we use to manage interest rate risks, each of which could reduce the expected cash flows and earnings on our portfolios.
Prepayment risk
Higher rates of prepayments of student loans, including consolidations by the Department through the Federal Direct Loan Program or private refinancing programs, reduce our interest income.
The Higher Education Act allows borrowers to prepay FFEL Program loans at any time without penalty. Prepayments have resulted and may continue to result from consolidations of student loans by the Department through the Federal Direct Loan Program or by a lending institution through a private education or unsecured consumer loan, which historically tend to occur more frequently in low interest rate environments; from borrower defaults on federally insured loans, which will result in the receipt of a guaranty payment; and from voluntary full or partial prepayments; among other things.
If the federal government or the Department initiate additional loan forgiveness or cancellation, other repayment options or plans, or consolidation loan programs, such initiatives could further increase prepayments and reduce interest income. Even if a broad debt cancellation program only applied to student loans held by the Department, such program could result in a significant increase in consolidations of FFELP loans to Federal Direct Loan Program loans and a corresponding increase in prepayments with respect to our FFELP loan portfolio, and also a decrease in our third-party FFELP loan servicing revenues.
Since late 2021, we have experienced accelerated run-off of our FFELP loan portfolio due to FFELP borrowers consolidating their loans into Federal Direct Loan Program loans as a result of initiatives offered by the Department for FFELP borrowers to qualify for loan forgiveness under various programs and the continued extension of the CARES Act payment pause on Department held loans. The CARES Act suspended federal student loan payments and interest accruals on all loans owned by the Department beginning in March 2020 and was extended multiple times through August 2023.
The Department announced a broad based student debt relief plan in August 2022, which provided targeted student debt cancellation to borrowers with loans held by the Department with unconditional loan cancellation in amounts of up to $20,000 for eligible borrowers who received a Pell Grant, or of up to $10,000 for eligible borrowers who did not receive a Pell Grant. Federal courts blocked implementation of the Department’s broad based student debt relief plan and on June 30, 2023, the Supreme Court struck down the Department’s plan. While such forgiveness plan has been invalidated, in February 2024, the Biden-Harris Administration (the “Administration”) proposed regulations that would allow the Department to cancel student debt for borrowers facing hardship related to their student loans. The proposed regulations enumerate numerous factors to determine hardship, including household income, total debt balances, and essential expenses, like healthcare and childcare. Under the proposed regulations, the Department could automatically cancel all or part of the student loans of borrowers who the Department determines, through data in its possession, are experiencing hardship such that their student loans are at least 80% likely to be in default within two years. The proposed regulations allow for the Department to provide additional student debt cancellation to borrowers experiencing hardship through an application or an automatic process.
In addition, on July 10, 2023, the Department issued final regulations on income-driven repayment plans for Federal Direct loans. Eligible FFELP borrowers can access the new changes by consolidating their loans into the Federal Direct Loan Program. The new regulations are effective July 1, 2024; however, the Department has elected early implementation for some features starting June 30, 2023. The regulations provide a lower monthly loan payment on a Direct loan by decreasing discretionary income, decreasing the percentage of discretionary income that must be paid toward a Direct loan, and providing the option for married borrowers to exclude their spouse’s income from being factored by filing a separate tax return. Other changes provide for the elimination of accrued interest that is not covered by the monthly payment amount, provide credit towards loan forgiveness that counts certain periods of deferment and forbearance, a shorter loan forgiveness period for borrowers with an original principal balance less than or equal to $12,000, and credit toward loan forgiveness for eligible payments on a Direct or FFELP loan that is repaid by a Direct Consolidation loan. This new income-driven repayment plan may increase consolidation activity in the future as FFELP borrowers consolidate their loans into the Federal Direct Loan Program in order to be eligible for the new income-driven repayment plan.
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We cannot predict how or what programs or policies will be impacted by any actions that the Administration, Congress, or the federal government may take, the timing of when such programs or policies may be implemented, and/or the ultimate outcome thereof. In addition, any changes to government programs or policies may be legally challenged, which may affect the extent and timing of these changes and the resulting impact they may have on our businesses, financial condition, or results of operations. New or modified Government programs or policies may lead to increased call volumes, and have a negative effect on the level of service we are able to provide.
Sustained higher FFEL Program loan prepayments and/or a significant increase in FFEL Program loan prepayments could have a material adverse impact in future periods on net interest income in our AGM segment, FFELP servicing revenue in our LSS segment, investment advisory services revenue earned by WRCM on FFELP loan asset-backed securities under management, and interest income earned on our FFELP loan asset-backed securities investments.
Some variability in prepayment levels is expected, although extraordinary or extended increases in prepayment rates could have a material adverse effect on our revenues, cash flows, profitability, and business outlook, and, as a result, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
Credit risk - loans
Future losses due to defaults on loans held by us present credit risk which could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, or results of operations. Our estimated allowance for loan losses is based on periodic evaluations of the credit risk in our loan portfolios, including the consideration of the following factors (as applicable), for each of our loan portfolios: loans in repayment versus those in nonpaying status; delinquency status; type of private education or consumer loan program; trends in defaults in the portfolio based on internal and industry data; past experience; trends in federally insured student loan claims rejected for payment by guarantors; changes to federal student loan programs; the FICO scores of borrowers; current macroeconomic factors, including unemployment rates, gross domestic product, and consumer price index; and other relevant qualitative factors.
The vast majority (93.6%) of our student loan portfolio is federally guaranteed, which limits our loss exposure on the outstanding balance of our federally guaranteed portfolio. Our private education and consumer loans are unsecured, with neither a government nor a private insurance guarantee. Accordingly, we bear the full risk of loss on these loans if the borrower and co-borrower, if applicable, default. We are actively expanding our acquisition of private education and consumer loan portfolios, which increases our exposure to credit risk.
If future defaults on loans held by us are higher than anticipated, which could result from a variety of factors such as downturns in the economy, regulatory or operational changes, and other unforeseen future trends, or actual performance is significantly worse than currently estimated, our estimate of the allowance for loan losses and the related provision for loan losses in our consolidated statements of income would be materially adversely affected.
Credit risk - beneficial interest in loan securitizations
We own partial ownership in consumer, private education, and federally insured student loan third-party securitizations that are classified as "beneficial interest in loan securitizations" and included in "investments and notes receivable" on our consolidated balance sheets. These residual interests were acquired by us or have been received as consideration as the result of selling portfolios of loans to unrelated third parties who securitized such loans. As of the latest remittance reports filed by the various trusts prior to or as of December 31, 2023, the Company's ownership correlates to approximately $1.76 billion of loans included in these securitizations. As of December 31, 2023, the investment balance on our consolidated balance sheet of its beneficial interest in loan securitizations was $225.1 million.
Our partial ownership percentage in each loan securitization grants us the right to receive the corresponding percentage of cash flows generated by the securitization. The cash flows generated from the securitizations are highly subject to credit risk (defaults). If defaults are higher than management's current estimate, future cash flows and investment interest income (earnings) from these securitizations would be adversely impacted. In addition, the value of the current investment balance may not be recoverable, resulting in an adverse impact to our operating results.
Interest rate risk - basis and repricing risk
We are exposed to interest rate risk in the form of basis risk and repricing risk because the interest rate characteristics of our loan assets do not always match the interest rate characteristics of the funding for those assets.
We fund the majority of the FFELP student loan assets in our AGM segment with one-month or three-month Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) indexed floating rate securities. Meanwhile, the interest earned on our FFELP student loan
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assets is indexed to 30-day average SOFR, three-month commercial paper, and three-month Treasury bill rates. The differing interest rate characteristics of our loan assets versus the liabilities funding these assets result in basis risk, which impacts the excess spread earned on our loans. We also face repricing risk due to the timing of the interest rate resets on our liabilities, which may occur as infrequently as once a quarter, in contrast to the timing of the interest rate resets on our assets, which generally occur daily. In a declining interest rate environment, this may cause our variable student loan spread to compress, while in a rising interest rate environment, it may cause the variable spread to increase.
As of December 31, 2023, our AGM segment had $10.9 billion, $0.4 billion, and $0.4 billion of FFELP loans indexed to the 30-day average SOFR, three-month commercial paper, and three-month Treasury bill rate, respectively, all of which reset daily, and $2.8 billion of debt indexed to 90-day SOFR, which resets quarterly, and $6.8 billion of debt indexed to 30-day SOFR, which resets monthly. While these indices are all short term in nature with rate movements that are highly correlated over a longer period of time, the indices' historically high level of correlation may be disrupted in the future due to capital market dislocations or other factors not within our control. In such circumstances, our business, financial condition, or results of operations could be materially adversely affected.
Interest rate risk - loss of floor income
FFELP loans originated prior to April 1, 2006 generally earn interest at the higher of the borrower rate, which is fixed over a period of time, or a floating rate based on the Special Allowance Payments (SAP) formula set by the Department. The SAP rate is based on an applicable index plus a fixed spread that depends on loan type, origination date, and repayment status. We generally finance our student loan portfolio with variable rate debt. In low and/or certain declining interest rate environments, when the fixed borrower rate is higher than the SAP rate, these student loans earn at a fixed rate while the interest on the variable rate debt typically continues to reflect the low and/or declining interest rates. In these interest rate environments, we may earn additional spread income that we refer to as floor income.
Depending on the type of loan and when it originated, the borrower rate is either fixed to term or is reset to an annual rate each July 1. As a result, for loans where the borrower rate is fixed to term, we may earn floor income for an extended period of time, which we refer to as fixed rate floor income, and for those loans where the borrower rate is reset annually on July 1, we may earn floor income to the next reset date, which we refer to as variable rate floor income.
For the years ended December 31, 2023, 2022, and 2021, we earned $2.2 million, $57.4 million, and $142.6 million, respectively, of gross fixed rate floor income. The decrease in the amount of fixed rate floor income earned by us was due to an increase in interest rates. Absent the use of derivative instruments, a rise in interest rates reduces the amount of floor income received and has a negative impact on earnings due to interest margin compression caused by increased financing costs, until such time as the federally insured loans earn interest at a variable rate in accordance with their SAP formulas. In higher interest rate environments, where the interest rate rises above the borrower rate and fixed rate loans effectively convert to variable rate loans, the impact of the rate fluctuations is reduced. Based on current interest rates, we do not anticipate earning a significant amount of fixed rate floor income in the foreseeable future. For example, during the fourth quarter of 2023, we earned gross fixed rate floor income of $0.2 million.
Interest rate risk - use of derivatives
We utilize derivative instruments to manage interest rate sensitivity. See note 5 of the notes to consolidated financial statements included in this report for additional information on derivatives used by us to manage interest rate risk. Our Non-Nelnet Bank derivative instruments are intended as economic hedges but do not qualify for hedge accounting. Our Nelnet Bank derivative instruments are structured so that each is economically effective; however, because the derivatives are hedging intercompany deposits, the derivative instruments are not eligible for hedge accounting in the consolidated financial statements. Consequently, the “mark-to-market” change in fair value of our derivative instruments is included in our operating results. Changes or shifts in the forward yield curve can significantly impact and have impacted the valuation of our derivatives, and in turn can significantly impact and have impacted our results of operations.
Developing an effective strategy for dealing with movements in interest rates is complex, and no strategy can completely insulate us from risks associated with such fluctuations. Because many of our non-Nelnet Bank derivatives are not balance guaranteed to a particular pool of student loans and we may not elect to fully hedge our risk on a notional and/or duration basis, we are subject to the risk of being under or over hedged, which could result in material losses. In addition, our interest rate risk management activities could expose us to substantial mark-to-market losses if interest rates move in a materially different way than was expected based on the environment when the derivatives were entered into. As a result, our economic hedging activities may not effectively manage our interest rate sensitivity, may not have the desired beneficial impact on our results of operations or financial condition, and may cause volatility in our results of operations or have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
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The Commodity Futures Trading Commission requires over-the-counter derivative transactions to be executed through an exchange or central clearinghouse. The clearing rules require us to post substantial amounts of liquid collateral when executing new derivative instruments, which could negatively impact our liquidity and capital resources and may prevent or limit us from utilizing derivative instruments to manage interest rate sensitivity and risks. However, the clearing requirements reduce counterparty risk associated with over-the-counter derivative instruments.
For derivatives not required to be executed through an exchange or central clearinghouse (“non-centrally cleared derivatives,”) we are exposed to credit risk. All of Nelnet Bank’s derivatives are non-centrally cleared derivatives. We attempt to manage credit risk by entering into transactions with high-quality counterparties. When the fair value of a non-centrally cleared derivative is positive (an asset on our balance sheet), this generally indicates that the counterparty owes us if the derivative was settled. If the counterparty fails to perform, credit risk with such counterparty is equal to the extent of the fair value gain in the derivative less any collateral held by us. If we were unable to collect from a counterparty, we would have a loss equal to the amount at which the derivative is recorded on the consolidated balance sheet. When the fair value of the derivative is negative (a liability on our balance sheet), we would owe the counterparty if the derivative was settled. If the negative fair value of derivatives with a counterparty exceeds a specified threshold, we may have to make a collateral deposit with the counterparty. As of December 31, 2023, Nelnet Bank had a total notional amount of $140.0 million of derivatives outstanding, and the gross fair value of such derivatives in an asset position was $0.5 million and in a liability position was $2.0 million.
Interest rate movements have an impact on the amount of payments we are required to settle with our clearinghouse on a daily basis and collateral we are required to deposit with our derivative instrument counterparties. We attempt to manage market risk associated with interest rates by establishing and monitoring limits as to the types and degree of risk that may be undertaken. However, if interest rates move materially and negatively impact the fair value of our derivative portfolio or if we enter into additional derivatives for which the fair value subsequently becomes negative, we could be required to pay a significant amount of variation margin to our clearinghouse and/or collateral to our derivative instrument counterparties. These payments could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition, liquidity, or capital resources.
Interest rate risk - replacement of LIBOR as a benchmark rate
On June 30, 2023, the LIBOR administrator ceased publication (on a representative basis) of all USD LIBOR rates. As of June 30, 2023, the interest earned on a principal amount of $12.0 billion of our FFELP student loan assets held by our AGM segment was indexed to one-month LIBOR, and the interest paid on a principal amount of $10.5 billion of our FFELP student loan asset-backed debt securities to fund such loans was indexed to one-month or three-month LIBOR. In addition, the majority of our derivative financial instrument transactions used to manage LIBOR interest rate risks were indexed to LIBOR.
We relied on fallback provisions to transition financial contracts from LIBOR to SOFR. The SAP formula for our FFELP loans, the majority of which were indexed to one-month LIBOR, were not able to be modified without legislative action. On March 15, 2022, the Adjustable Interest Rate (LIBOR) Act (the LIBOR Act) was signed into law. The LIBOR Act provides that for contracts that contain no fallback provision or contain fallback provisions that do not identify a specific USD LIBOR benchmark replacement (including the SAP formula for FFELP loans), a benchmark replacement based on SOFR will automatically replace the USD LIBOR benchmark in the contract after June 30, 2023. Following the enactment and implementation of the LIBOR Act, all of our financial instruments which were indexed to USD LIBOR transitioned to SOFR after June 30, 2023. Specifically, after June 30, 2023, the SAP formula for FFELP loans transitioned to 30-day average SOFR and our LIBOR-indexed FFELP asset-backed debt securities also transitioned to a short-term SOFR index. In addition, our LIBOR-indexed derivatives transitioned to the fallback rate (SOFR) as defined in the individual agreements and/or published industry guidelines, as applicable.
The market transition away from the previous LIBOR framework could result in significant changes to the interest rate characteristics of our prior LIBOR-indexed assets and funding for those assets. We are still uncertain as to the long-term relationship between overnight SOFR and Term SOFR as they are new indices, and our assumptions with respect to this relationship may evolve over time. To the extent that the spread between these indices were to widen, it could adversely impact future interest income earned on our FFELP student loan portfolio.
Our loan portfolios and other assets and operations could experience adverse impacts from natural disasters, widespread health crises similar to the COVID-19 pandemic, terrorist activities, or international hostilities.
Natural disasters, widespread health crises similar to the COVID-19 pandemic, terrorist activities, or international hostilities, including the conflict in Ukraine, the Middle East, and similar conflicts, could affect the financial markets or the economy in general or in any particular region and could lead, for example, to an increase in loan delinquencies, borrower bankruptcies, or defaults that could result in higher levels of nonperforming assets, net charge-offs, and provisions for credit losses, as well as have adverse effects on our other assets and business operations. We cannot predict specifically when and where such events
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will occur, or the full nature and extent thereof, and our resiliency planning may not be sufficient to mitigate the adverse consequences of such events. The adverse impact of such events could also be increased to the extent that there is insufficient preparedness on the part of national or regional emergency responders or on the part of other organizations and businesses that we transact with, particularly those that we depend upon but have no control over.
Liquidity and Funding
The current maturities of our loan warehouse financing facilities do not match the maturities of the related funded loans, and we may not be able to modify and/or find alternative funding related to the loan collateral in these facilities prior to their expiration.
The majority of our portfolio of loans is funded through asset-backed securitizations that are structured to substantially match the maturities of the funded assets, and there are minimal liquidity issues related to these facilities. We also have loans funded in shorter term warehouse facilities, as described in note 4 of the notes to consolidated financial statements included in this report. The current maturities of the warehouse facilities do not match the maturity of the related funded assets. Therefore, we will need to modify and/or find alternative funding related to the loan collateral in these facilities prior to their expiration. In addition, our warehouse facilities contain certain financial covenants. Any noncompliance with these covenants could result in a requirement for the immediate repayment of any outstanding borrowings under the facilities.
If we are unable to obtain cost-effective funding alternatives for the loans in the warehouse facilities prior to the facilities' maturities, our cost of funds could increase, adversely affecting our results of operations. If we cannot find funding alternatives, we would have to fund the collateral using operating cash (negatively impacting our liquidity), consider the sale of assets (that could result in losses), and/or lose our collateral, including the loan assets and cash advances, related to these facilities.
We are subject to economic and market fluctuations related to our investments.
We invest a substantial portion of our excess cash in student loan and other asset-backed securities that are subject to market fluctuations. Our amortized cost and the fair value of these investments was $982.9 million and $955.9 million, respectively, as of December 31, 2023. The majority of our asset-backed securities earn floating interest rates with expected returns of approximately SOFR + 100 to 350 basis points to maturity. Our portfolio of asset-backed securities has limited liquidity, and we could incur a significant loss if the investments were sold prior to maturity at an amount less than the original purchase price.
We will need to extend, refinance, or repay the repurchase agreement funding the purchase of certain private education loan asset-backed securities that we must retain as sponsor of the underlying securitizations, since the current maturities of the agreement do not match the required holding period for the related securities and we must pay additional equity support if the fair value of the securities subject to the agreement becomes less than the original purchase price of the securities.
During 2021, we sponsored four asset-backed securitization transactions to permanently finance a total of $8.7 billion of private education loans sold by Wells Fargo. As sponsor, we are required to provide a certain level of risk retention, and we have purchased bonds issued in such securitizations to satisfy this requirement. The bonds purchased to satisfy the risk retention requirement are reflected on our consolidated balance sheets as "investments and notes receivable" and as of December 31, 2023, the fair value of these bonds was $252.9 million. We must retain these investment securities until the latest of (i) two years from the closing date of the securitization, (ii) the date the aggregate outstanding principal balance of the loans in the securitization is 33% or less of the initial loan balance, and (iii) the date the aggregate outstanding principal balance of the bonds is 33% or less of the aggregate initial outstanding principal balance of the bonds, at which time we can sell the investment securities (bonds) to a third party. We entered into repurchase agreements with third parties, the proceeds of which were used to purchase a portion of the asset-backed investments, and such investments serve as collateral on the repurchase obligations. As of December 31, 2023, one repurchase agreement remains outstanding.
As of December 31, 2023, $208.2 million was outstanding on our repurchase agreement, of which $117.8 million was borrowed to fund the private education loan securitization bonds subject to our risk retention requirements. The agreement, as of December 31, 2023, has various maturity dates through December 20, 2024, but is subject to early termination upon required notice provided by us or the applicable counterparty prior to the maturity dates. We must pay additional cash as equity support if the fair value of the securities subject to the agreement becomes less than the original purchase price of the securities.
The current maturity of the repurchase agreement does not match the required holding period for, or the maturity of, the related funded assets. Therefore, we will need to continue to extend the maturity of the agreement, find alternative funding for the related investment securities collateral prior to the agreement’s expiration, and/or repay the outstanding balance. If we are unable to extend the maturity of the agreement and/or find alternative funding, it could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, liquidity, or results of operations.
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Operations
Our largest fee-based customer, the Department of Education, represented 32% of our revenue in 2023. Our inability to consistently surpass competitor performance metrics, unfavorable contract modifications or interpretations, or the loss of servicing borrower volume due to broad based debt cancellation by the Department, could significantly lower servicing revenue in our LSS segment, hinder future service opportunities, and have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
As of December 31, 2023, Nelnet Servicing was servicing $494.7 billion of government owned student loans for 14.5 million borrowers. For the year ended December 31, 2023, our LSS segment recognized $412.5 million in revenue from the Department, which represented 32% of our revenue.
In April 2023, Nelnet Servicing received a contract award from the Department, pursuant to which it was selected to provide continued servicing capabilities for the Department’s student aid recipients under a new Unified Servicing and Data Solution contract which will replace the existing legacy Department student loan servicing contract. The New Government Servicing Contract was effective April 24, 2023 and has a five year base period, with 2 two-year and 1 one-year possible extensions. Until servicing under the New Government Servicing Contract goes live, which is anticipated to be in April 2024, we will continue to earn revenue for servicing borrowers under our current legacy servicing contract with the Department. Assuming borrower volume remains consistent under the New Government Servicing Contract, we expect revenue earned on a per borrower blended basis will decrease under the New Government Servicing Contract versus the current legacy contract.
New loan volume is allocated among the Department servicers based on certain service level and portfolio performance metrics established by the Department and compared among all loan servicers. The amount of future allocations of new loan volume could be negatively impacted if we are unable to consistently surpass comparable competitor and/or other performance metrics. In addition, if any current or future Department servicing contracts become subject to unfavorable modifications or interpretations by the Department, including adverse pricing changes, servicing revenue would be negatively impacted and could result in potential restructuring charges that may be necessary to re-align our cost structure with our servicing operations. For example, in 2023, the Department transferred one million borrowers serviced by us to another servicer. In addition, due to lack of Federal government appropriations the Department may modify its cost under existing contracts with its servicers and accordingly reduce servicers’ required servicing activities, and such modifications could adversely impact the Company’s servicing revenue and operating results, as well as the level of service we are able to provide, that may result in additional scrutiny from federal and state government regulatory agencies and reputation damage. For example, in April 2023, the Department modified the current contract to reduce the monthly fee by $0.19 per borrower on certain borrower statuses.
Further, we are partially dependent on our existing Department contract to broaden servicing operations with the Department, other federal and state agencies, and commercial clients. The size and importance of this contract provides us the scale and infrastructure needed to profitably expand into new business opportunities. Loss of existing loan volume to other Department servicers, or because of widespread or targeted student debt cancellation to borrowers with loans held by the Department (see the risk factor discussion under the caption “Loan Portfolio - Prepayment risk” above for additional information concerning risk of widespread or targeted student loan debt cancellation), would adversely impact loan servicing revenue and could significantly hinder future opportunities, as well as result in potential restructuring charges that may be necessary to re-align our cost structure with our servicing operations.
Climate change manifesting as physical or transition risks could have a material adverse impact on our operations, vendors, and customers.
Our businesses, and the activities of our vendors and customers, could be impacted by climate change. Climate change could manifest as a financial risk to us either through changes in the physical climate or from the process of transitioning to a low-carbon economy, including changes in climate policy or in the regulation of businesses with respect to risks posed by climate change. Climate-related physical risks may include altered distribution and intensity of rainfall; prolonged droughts or flooding; increased frequency and severity of wildfires, hurricanes, and tornadoes; rising sea levels; and a rising heat index. In addition to possible changes in climate policy and regulation, potential transition risks may include economic and other changes engendered by the development of low-carbon technological advances and/or changes in consumer and business preferences toward low-carbon goods and services. These climate-related physical risks and transition risks could have a financial impact on us, and on our vendors and customers, including declines in asset values; cost increases; reduced availability and/or increased cost of insurance; reduced demand for certain goods and services; increased loan delinquencies, bankruptcies, events of default, and force majeure events; increased interruptions to business operations and services; adverse supply chain impacts; and negative consequences to business models and the need to make changes in response to those consequences.
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The profitability and risk profile of our renewable energy business may be impacted by the terms and availability of federal incentives, regulatory uncertainty, climate change risk, supply chain risk, rising debt, labor, and construction costs, and other risks and costs associated with the construction, financing, sale, and operation and maintenance of renewable energy projects.
The operation and profitability of our renewable energy business is subject to and depends in significant part upon complex federal, state, and other laws and regulations, including the Inflation Reduction Act, which regulate and, in some instances, incentivize the production of renewable energy. Any reductions or modifications to, or the elimination or adverse interpretation of, governmental regulations or incentives that support renewable energy, or the imposition of taxes, tariffs, or other assessments on renewable energy or renewable energy equipment, could negatively impact this business unit. For instance, the imposition or modification of prevailing wage laws and apprenticeship requirements applicable to solar projects, or increase in prevailing wage rates applicable to solar projects, can significantly impact project viability and cost of compliance. Our ability to proceed with solar projects under development and to complete and finance the construction of such projects on schedule and within budget may be adversely affected by escalating costs for materials, labor, insurance, and regulatory compliance, operational risks as described below, inability to obtain requisite permits, disputes involving contractors/subcontractors, land owners, offtakers, solar developers, financing parties, and/or other entities, rising interest rates and cost of debt service, and changes in key assumptions underlying the forecasted model and budget for project development and operation. If any renewable energy project under our long-term ownership or financed by us or otherwise constructed by us is not completed, is delayed, is subject to changes in size, scope, or design, or is subject to cost overruns, we may incur material costs that we may not be able to recover through regulatory or other contractual mechanisms, including obligations to make delay or termination payments, to incur costs without ability to recoup those costs via change order or re-pricing, loss of tax credits and benefits, loss of environmental incentives, or delayed or diminished returns, which could require us to write off all or a portion of our investment in the applicable project(s) and/or recognize costs in excess of contractual revenue to be earned from third party construction customers. For the majority of the Company's solar investments, the HLBV method of accounting results in accelerated losses in the initial years of investment. Nelnet Renewable Energy recognized losses on its tax equity investments of $46.7 million in 2023 (including $26.4 million attributed to noncontrolling interest investors). Furthermore, since the acquisition of GRNE, it has incurred low, and, in some cases, negative margins on certain projects. GRNE Solar recognized a net loss of $34.2 million in 2023. In the fourth quarter of 2023, the Company recognized an impairment charge of $20.6 million related to goodwill and certain intangible assets initially recognized from the GRNE Solar acquisition. Due to the complexity and long-term nature of our existing construction contracts, we may continue to incur low and/or negative margins to complete projects currently under contract. Operational risks associated with our renewable energy business include, but are not limited to, risks associated with facility start-up operations, compliance risks (including penalties for failures to comply), supply chain risks, climate change risks (including severe weather events), performance below expected or contracted levels of output or production, safety risks, labor availability risks (including our ability to hire and retain talent with solar construction experience), equipment breakdown, ability of offtakers and other counterparties to renewable energy contracts to pay or perform as required, warranty claims, shifting demand and regulatory changes/uncertainty, and insufficient insurance, warranties, and/or indemnities to cover the costs of the foregoing. These factors could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
A failure of our information technology infrastructure could disrupt our businesses, cause significant losses, result in regulatory action, and damage our reputation.
We operate many different businesses in diverse markets and depend on the efficient and uninterrupted operation of our computer systems, networks, software, datacenters, cloud services providers, telecommunications systems, and the rest of our information technology infrastructure to process and monitor large numbers of daily transactions in compliance with contractual, legal, regulatory, and our own standards. Such systems and infrastructure could be disrupted because of a cyberattack, unanticipated spikes in transaction volume, extended power outages, telecommunications failures, process breakdowns, degradation or loss of internet or website availability, natural disasters, political or social unrest, and terrorist acts. A significant adverse incident could damage our reputation and credibility, lead to customer dissatisfaction and loss of customers or revenue, and result in regulatory action, in addition to increased costs to service our customers and protect our network. Such an event could also result in large expenditures to repair or replace the damaged properties, networks, or information systems or to protect them from similar events in the future. System redundancy may be ineffective or inadequate, and our business continuity plans may not be sufficient for all eventualities. Any significant loss of customers or revenue, or significant increase in costs of serving those customers, could adversely affect our growth, financial condition, and results of operations.
Information technology infrastructure risks continue to increase in part because of the proliferation of new technologies, the increased use of the internet and telecommunications technologies to support and process customer transactions, the increased number and complexity of transactions being processed, increased instances of employees working from home and/or using
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personal computing devices, and the increased sophistication and activities of organized crime, hackers, terrorists, activists, nation state threat actors, and other external parties. In addition, to access our services and products, our customers may use personal smartphones, tablet computers, and other mobile devices that are beyond our control to secure from cyber threats.
Malicious and abusive activities, such as the dissemination of destructive or disruptive software, computer hacking, denial of service attacks, and ransomware or ransom demands to not expose confidential data or vulnerabilities in systems, have become more common. These activities could have material adverse consequences on our network and our customers, including degradation of service, excessive call volume, and damage to our or our customers' equipment and data. Although to date we have not experienced a material loss relating to cyberattacks or system outage, there can be no assurance that we will not suffer such losses in the future or that there is not a current threat that remains undetected at this time. Our risk and exposure to these matters remains heightened because of, among other things, the evolving nature of these threats, and the size and scale of our services.
We could also incur material losses resulting from the risk of unauthorized access to our computer systems, the execution of unauthorized transactions by employees, unapproved use of artificial intelligence or machine learning, errors relating to transaction processing and technology, breaches of the internal control system and compliance requirements, and failures to properly execute business resumption and disaster recovery plans. In the event of a breakdown in the internal control system, improper operation of systems, or unauthorized employee actions, we could suffer material financial loss, potential legal actions, fines, or civil monetary penalties that could arise as a result of an operational deficiency or as a result of noncompliance with applicable regulatory standards, adverse business decisions or their implementation, and customer attrition due to potential negative publicity and damage to our reputation. Even though we maintain insurance coverage to offset costs related to incidents such as a cyberattack, information security breach, or extended system outage, this insurance coverage may not cover all costs of such incidents.
A security breach of our information technology systems could result in material financial losses and legal exposure, and damage to our reputation.
Our operations rely on the secure processing, storage, and transmission of personal, confidential, and other sensitive information in our information technology systems and networks. Although we take protective measures we believe to be reasonable and appropriate, our systems, networks, and software may be vulnerable to the increasingly numerous and more sophisticated cyberattacks, and our cybersecurity measures may not be entirely effective.
Cyberattack techniques change frequently, generally increase in sophistication, often are not recognized until launched, sometimes go undetected even when successful, and originate from a wide variety of sources, including organized crime, hackers, terrorists, activists, disgruntled customers or consumers, unapproved use of artificial intelligence or machine learning, and hostile foreign governments. Cyberattacks may increase in frequency during times of global unrest, such as the conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East. Attackers may also attempt to fraudulently induce employees, customers, or other users of our systems to disclose sensitive information to gain access to our data or that of our customers, such as through “phishing” schemes and other social engineering techniques. These risks may increase in the future as we continue to increase our mobile and internet-based product offerings and expand our internal usage of web-based products and applications. In addition, our customers often use their personal devices, such as smart phones and tablet computers, to make payments and manage their accounts. We have limited ability to assure the security of our customers’ transactions to the extent they are using their personal devices, which could be subject to similar threats. A breach, or perceived breaches, of our information security systems, or the intentional or unintentional disclosure, alteration, or destruction by an authorized user of confidential information necessary for our operations, could result in serious negative consequences for us. These consequences may include violations of applicable privacy and other laws; financial loss to us or to our customers; loss of confidence in our cybersecurity measures; customer dissatisfaction; significant litigation exposure; regulatory fines, penalties or intervention; reimbursement or other compensatory costs; additional compliance costs; significant disruption of our business operations; and damage to our reputation.
In addition, we routinely transmit, receive, and process large volumes of personal, confidential, and proprietary information through third parties. Our arrangements with these third parties to maintain the confidentiality and security of such information may not be entirely effective, and a breach of a third-party system may not be revealed to us in a timely manner, which could compromise our ability to respond effectively. A cybersecurity incident originating from a third party could have negative consequences for us similar to those discussed above.
We and our third-party vendors have experienced, and could experience in the future, cybersecurity incidents. For example, in July 2022, we determined the customer website portal for the primary loan servicing platform used by our remote hosted servicing clients had experienced a cybersecurity incident. We took immediate and extensive steps to secure the system, block the unauthorized activity, address the issue via additional technical and security measures, notify our insurance carriers, and launch a forensic investigation. Our investigation confirmed unauthorized access to confidential consumer information of
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federal student loan borrowers serviced on our platform by Edfinancial Services and Oklahoma Student Loan Authority. Borrower name, address, email address, phone number, and Social Security number information was impacted, but no financial account or payment information was impacted. Loans serviced directly by Nelnet were not impacted by the event. The applicable regulators and affected consumers were notified and identity theft monitoring has been and continues to be offered to those affected. Although to date none of these incidents has individually or in the aggregate had a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition, or businesses, there can be no assurance that we will not suffer material adverse effects in the future or that there is not a significant current incident or threat that remains undetected at this time.
If we are unable to adapt to rapid technological change, take advantage of technological developments, or our software products experience quality problems and development delays, the demand for our products and services may decline.
Our long-term operating results, particularly from our LSS and ETSP segments, depend substantially upon our ability to continually enhance, develop, introduce, and market new products and services. We must continually and cost-effectively maintain and improve our information technology systems and infrastructure in order to successfully deliver competitive and cost-effective products and services to our customers. The widespread proliferation of new technologies and market demands could require substantial expenditures to enhance system infrastructure and existing products and services. If we fail to enhance and scale our systems and operational infrastructure or products and services, our LSS and ETSP segments may lose their competitive advantage, which could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
We require skilled technology and security workers to maintain, secure, and improve our information technology systems and infrastructure. Increased demand and competition for available skilled workers across the technology sector may impact our ability to maintain adequate technology and security staffing levels. If we are unable to retain existing talent, or recruit and hire new talent when needed, we may be unable to quickly develop and adopt new technologies, adequately adjust for contingencies, or maintain and improve our existing technology systems and infrastructure.
Our products and services are based on sophisticated software and computing systems that often encounter development delays, and the underlying software may contain undetected bugs or other defects that interfere with its intended operation. Quality problems with our software products, with transferring between systems, or with errors or delays in our processing of electronic transactions, could result in additional development costs, diversion of technical and other resources from our other development efforts, loss of credibility with current or potential clients, damage to our reputation, or exposure to liability claims.
Our development and use of artificial intelligence (“AI”) may result in reputational or competitive harm, legal liability, and other adverse effects on our business.
We have incorporated AI into certain aspects of our business, including assistance with handling customer inquiries, quality assurance monitoring, optical character recognition for processing and handling images, and monitoring network traffic. Additionally, some of our vendors use AI to enhance their products and services. Our use of AI, as well as the use by our vendors, may increase over time as the technology continues to develop. Our competitors may incorporate AI into their products or operations more quickly and effectively than we do, which could impair our ability to compete effectively.
Our use of AI carries inherent risks related to data privacy and security, such as intended, unintended, or inadvertent transmission of proprietary, personal, or sensitive information, as well as challenges related to implementing and maintaining AI tools, such as developing and maintaining appropriate datasets. Ineffective or inadequate use of AI by us or our vendors could produce deficient, inaccurate, or biased analyses or customer responses and prevent us from detecting quality or network security issues. Any of the foregoing could result in regulatory action, loss of confidence from government clients, legal liability, and reputational harm and adversely impact our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
In October 2023, the Administration issued an Executive Order to, among other things, establish new standards for AI safety and security. In response to such Executive Order, in January 2024, the Administration announced that developers of the most powerful AI systems would need to report certain vital information to the Department of Commerce. Future legislation on AI could prevent or limit our use of AI, require us to change our business practices, or lead to legal liability or regulatory action.
We rely on third parties for a wide array of services for our customers, and to meet our contractual obligations. The failure of a third party with which we work could adversely affect our business performance and reputation.
We rely on third parties for many critical operational services, technology, software development, datacenter hosting facilities, cloud computing platforms, and software. We also rely upon data from external sources to maintain our proprietary databases, including data from customers, business partners, and various government sources. Our third-party service providers may be vulnerable to damage or interruption from natural disasters, power loss, cyberattacks, telecommunications failures, geopolitical
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disruption, breakdowns or failures of their systems, employee negligence or misconduct, supply chain disruptions, acts of terrorism, and similar events. They may also be subject to sabotage, vandalism, and similar misconduct, as well as regulatory actions, changes to legal requirements, and litigation to stop, limit, or delay operations. Our ability to implement backup systems and other safeguards with respect to third-party systems is limited. Furthermore, an attack on, or failure of, a third-party system may not be revealed to us in a timely manner, which could compromise our ability to respond effectively.
If a third-party service provider’s services are disrupted, we may temporarily lose the ability to conduct certain business activities, which could impact our ability to serve our customers and meet our contractual, legal, or regulatory compliance obligations, and/or result in the loss or compromise of our information or the information of our customers. Our businesses would also be harmed if our customers and potential customers believe our services are unreliable. Some of our third-party service providers may engage vendors of their own as they provide services or technology solutions for our operations, which introduces the same risks that these “fourth parties” could be the source of operational and cybersecurity failures.
Due to our use of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft 365 for a significant amount of our technology products and services, as well as the dependence of many of our third-party service providers on AWS and Microsoft 365, the stability and availability of AWS and Microsoft 365 is critical to our business.
If we fail to comply with the requirements to maintain the federal guarantees for the FFELP loans we service for us and for third parties, we may lose our guarantees or incur penalties.
As of December 31, 2023, we serviced $17.5 billion of FFELP loans that maintained a federal guarantee, of which $10.2 billion and $7.3 billion were owned by us and third parties, respectively. We must meet various requirements in order to maintain the federal guarantee on these federally insured loans, which is conditional based on compliance with origination, servicing, and collection policies set by the Department and guaranty agencies. If we misinterpret Department guidance, or incorrectly apply the Higher Education Act, the Department could determine that we are not in compliance. FFELP loans that are not originated, disbursed, or serviced in accordance with Department and guaranty agency regulations may be subject to partial or complete loss of the guarantee. If we experience servicing deficiencies, it could result in the loan guarantee being revoked or denied. Although in most cases, we may cure deficiencies by following a prescribed cure process which usually involves obtaining the borrower's reaffirmation of the debt, not all deficiencies can be cured. As FFELP loan holders, servicers, and guaranty agencies exit the FFEL Program and consolidation within the industry takes place, this increases the complexity of servicing and claim filing due to the amount of loan servicing and loan guaranty transfers and the opportunity for errors at the time a claim is filed.
Failure to comply with Department and guaranty agency regulations may also result in fines, other penalties, expenses required to cure servicing deficiencies, suspension or termination of the right to participate as a FFELP servicer, negative publicity, and potential legal claims, including claims by our servicing customers if they lose the federal guarantee or SAP benefits on loans that we service for them. If we are subjected to significant fines, or loss of insurance or guarantees on a material number of FFELP loans, or if we lose our ability to service FFELP loans, it could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
Our Department of Education servicing contract and our third-party FFELP loan servicing business involve additional risks inherent in government contracts and programs.
The federal government could engage in a prolonged debate linking the federal deficit, debt ceiling, government shutdown, and other budget issues. If U.S. lawmakers fail to reach agreement on these issues, the federal government could modify terms on current agreements or delay payment on its obligations, which could adversely impact our business, financial condition, or results of operations. Further, legislation to address the federal deficit and spending could impose changes that would adversely affect the Federal Direct Loan Program and FFELP servicing businesses.
We contract with the Department to administer loans held by the Department in both the FFEL and Federal Direct Loan Program, we own a portfolio of FFELP loans, and we service our FFELP loans as well as FFELP loans for third parties. These loan programs are authorized by the Higher Education Act and are subject to periodic reauthorization and changes to the programs by the Administration and Congress. Any changes, including the potential for borrowers to refinance loans via Direct Consolidation Loans, or broad loan forgiveness or cancellation, could have a material impact on our cash flows from servicing, interest income, and operating margins (see the risk factor discussion under the caption “Loan Portfolio - Prepayment risk” above for additional information about these risks).
Government entities in the U.S. often reserve the right to audit contract costs and conduct inquiries and investigations of business practices. These entities also conduct reviews and investigations and make inquiries regarding systems, including systems of third parties, used in connection with the performance of the contracts. Negative findings could adversely affect the contractor’s future revenues and profitability. If improper or illegal activities are found, we could become subject to various
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civil and criminal penalties, including those under the civil U.S. False Claims Act. Additionally, we may be subject to administrative sanctions, which may include termination or non-renewal of contracts, forfeiture of profits, suspension of payments, fines and suspensions, or debarment from doing business with other agencies of that government.
The government could change governmental policies, programs, regulatory environments, spending sentiment, and many other factors and conditions, some of which could adversely impact our businesses, results of operations, and financial condition. We cannot predict how or what programs or policies will be changed by the federal government. The conditions described above could impact not only our contract with the Department, but also other existing or future contracts with government or commercial entities, and could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
Our ability to continue to grow and maintain our contracts with commercial businesses and government agencies is partly dependent on our ability to maintain compliance with various laws, regulations, and industry standards applicable to those contracts.
We are subject to various laws, regulations, and industry standards related to our commercial and government contracts. In most cases, these contracts are subject to termination rights, audits, and investigations. The laws and regulations that impact our operating segments are outlined in Part I, Item 1, “Regulation and Supervision.” Additionally, our LSS segment contracts with the federal government require that we maintain internal controls in accordance with the National Institute of Standards and Technologies and our LSS and ETSP segments that utilize payment cards are subject to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards. If we fail to comply with the contract provisions or applicable laws, regulations, or standards, or the counterparty exercises its termination or other rights for that or other reasons, our reputation could be negatively affected, and our ability to compete for new contracts or maintain existing contracts could diminish, which in turn could have an adverse impact on our results of operations from existing contracts and future opportunities for new contracts.
The failure to safeguard the privacy of personal information could result in significant legal and reputational harm.
We are subject to complex and evolving laws and regulations, both inside and outside of the U.S., governing the privacy and protection of personal information of individuals. Ensuring the handling and use of personal information complies with applicable laws and regulations in relevant jurisdictions can increase operating costs, impact the development of new products or services, and reduce operational efficiency. Any mishandling or misuse of personal information by us or a third-party affiliate could expose us to litigation or regulatory fines, penalties, or other sanctions. Additional risks could arise if we or an affiliated third party do not provide adequate disclosure or transparency to our customers about the personal information obtained from them and its use; fail to receive, document, and honor the privacy preferences expressed by customers; fail to protect personal information from unauthorized disclosure; or fail to maintain proper training on privacy practices. Concerns about the effectiveness of our measures to safeguard personal information and abide by privacy preferences, or even the perception that those measures are inadequate, could cause the loss of existing or potential customers and thereby reduce our revenue. In addition, any failure or perceived failure to comply with applicable privacy or data protection laws and regulations could result in requirements to modify or cease certain operations or practices, and/or significant liabilities, regulatory fines, penalties, and other sanctions. The regulatory framework for privacy issues is evolving, which is likely to continue. Because the interpretation and application of privacy and data protection laws and privacy standards are still uncertain, it is possible that these laws or privacy standards may be interpreted and applied in a manner that is inconsistent with our practices. Any inability to adequately address privacy concerns, even if unfounded, or to comply with applicable privacy or data protection laws, regulations, and privacy standards, could result in additional cost and liability for us, damage our reputation, and harm our businesses.
Nelnet Bank may not be able to achieve its business objectives and effectively deploy loan and deposit strategies in accordance with regulatory requirements.
The banking industry is highly regulated, and the regulatory framework, together with any future legislative changes, may have a significant adverse effect on Nelnet Bank’s operations. The regulatory landscape surrounding industrial banks continues to be scrutinized and banking policy changes may be difficult to predict in advance. Nelnet Bank’s current product offerings are primarily concentrated in loan products for higher education and unsecured consumer lending. Such concentrations and the competitive environment for those products subject the bank to risks that could adversely affect its financial condition. Consumer access to alternative means of financing, the costs of education, interest rates, and other factors may reduce demand for, or adversely affect Nelnet Bank’s ability to, retain private education loans and the bank’s ability to originate new loans. For example, the recent increase of interest rates has negatively impacted and will continue to negatively impact the origination of refinanced private education loans.
Nelnet Bank has FDIC-required agreements with Nelnet, Inc. and Michael S. Dunlap (Nelnet, Inc.’s controlling shareholder) in connection with Nelnet, Inc.’s role as a source of financial strength for Nelnet Bank. For additional information, see the MD&A
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- “Liquidity and Capital Resources - Liquidity Impact Related to Nelnet Bank.” However, any failure to meet minimum capital requirements and FDIC regulations can initiate certain mandatory and possibly additional discretionary actions by regulators that, if undertaken, could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
In our reinsurance business, we depend on our clients’ evaluations of the risks associated with their insurance underwriting, which may subject us to reinsurance losses. If our losses greatly exceed our loss reserves, our financial condition may be significantly and negatively affected.
In our reinsurance business, in which we assume an agreed percentage of each underlying insurance contract being reinsured, or quota share contracts, we do not separately evaluate each of the original individual risks assumed under these reinsurance contracts. Therefore, we are largely dependent on the original underwriting decisions made by ceding companies. We are subject to the risk that our clients may not have adequately evaluated the insured risks and that the premiums ceded may not adequately compensate us for the risks we assume. We also do not separately evaluate each of the individual claims made on the underlying insurance contracts under quota share arrangements, though we maintain rights to audit claim files and practices of the ceding companies. Therefore, we are dependent on the original claims decisions made by our clients.
Our results of operations and financial condition will depend upon our ability to accurately assess the potential losses associated with the risks we reinsure. Reserves are estimates at a given time of claims an insurer ultimately expects to pay, based upon facts and circumstances then known, predictions of future events, estimates of future trends in claim severity, and other variable factors. The inherent uncertainties of estimating loss reserves are generally greater for reinsurance companies as compared to primary insurers, primarily due to (i) the lapse of time from the occurrence of an event to the reporting of the claim and the ultimate resolution or settlement of the claim; (ii) the diversity of development patterns among different types of reinsurance treaties; and (iii) the necessary reliance on the ceding company for information regarding claims.
Our estimation of reserves may be less reliable than the reserve estimations of a reinsurer with a greater volume of business and an established loss history. Our actual losses paid may deviate substantially from the estimates of our loss reserves and could negatively affect our results of operations. If our loss reserves are later found to be inadequate, we would increase our loss reserves with a corresponding reduction in our net income and capital in the period in which we identify the deficiency.
In addition, we have entered into arrangements to cede a portion of our exposure to a third party. Retrocession reinsurance treaties do not relieve us from our obligation to direct writing companies. Failure of retrocessionaires to honor their obligations could result in losses to us.
Our failure to successfully manage acquired businesses and assets, as well as other investments, including venture capital and real estate investments, could have a material adverse effect on our businesses, financial condition, or results of operations.
We have expanded our services and products through business and asset acquisitions, and we anticipate making additional acquisitions to obtain new or enhance existing businesses, products, and services, as well as other investments, including venture capital and real estate investments, to further diversify us both within and outside of our historical education-related businesses. Any acquisition or investment is subject to a number of risks. Such risks may include diversion of management time and resources, disruption of our ongoing businesses, difficulties in integrating acquisitions (including potential delays or errors in converting loan servicing portfolio acquisitions to our servicing platform), loss of key employees, degradation of services, difficulty expanding information technology systems and other business processes to incorporate the acquired businesses, extensive regulatory requirements, dilution to existing shareholders if our common stock is issued for an acquisition or investment, incurring or assuming indebtedness or other liabilities in connection with an acquisition, unexpected declines in real estate values or the failure to realize expected benefits from real estate development projects, lack of familiarity with new markets, and difficulties in supporting new product lines. Our failure to successfully manage acquisitions or investments, or successfully integrate acquisitions, could have a material adverse effect on our businesses, financial condition, or results of operations.
Our significant investments in ALLO and Hudl are subject to a number of risks, including macroeconomic conditions, competition, political and regulatory requirements, technology advancements, cybersecurity threats, and retention of key personnel. ALLO derives its revenue primarily from the sale of telecommunication services, which are subject to intense competition and extensive federal, state, and local regulations, as well as tailwinds from the pace of construction permitting and inflationary costs. Additionally, ALLO’s success is dependent on it maintaining and expanding its infrastructure and continuing to increase market share in existing and new markets. Hudl’s sports performance analysis business is subject to risks related to global market conditions, new competition, advancements in technology, and continued demand for its products and services. Due to the HLBV method of accounting used to account for our ownership of ALLO, we expect the carrying value of our ALLO investment to be reduced to zero during the first quarter of 2024. The operating results of any of our investments,
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including ALLO and Hudl, could impact the valuation on our financial statements of our investments in them, and we may not be able to fully monetize these investments without a liquidation event.
Incorrect estimates and assumptions by management in connection with the preparation of our consolidated financial statements could adversely affect our reported assets, liabilities, income, revenue, and expenses.
The preparation of our consolidated financial statements requires management to make critical accounting estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets, liabilities, income, revenue, and expenses during the reporting periods. Incorrect estimates and assumptions by management could adversely affect our reported amounts of assets, liabilities, income, revenue, and expenses during the reporting periods. If we make incorrect assumptions or estimates, our reported financial results may be over or understated, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations.
We could determine that our goodwill and intangible assets are impaired, thus recognizing a related loss.
As of December 31, 2023, we had goodwill of $158.0 million and intangible assets of $44.8 million. We evaluate our goodwill and other intangible assets for impairment. During 2023, we recognized non-cash impairment charges for goodwill and intangible assets of $18.9 million and $1.7 million, respectively. As of December 31, 2023, the amount of goodwill allocated to the AGM reporting unit was $41.9 million. As a result of the Reconciliation Act of 2010, AGM no longer originates new FFELP loans, and net interest income from its existing FFELP loan portfolio will decline over time as the portfolio pays down. As a result, as this revenue stream winds down, goodwill impairment will be triggered for the AGM reporting unit due to the passage of time and depletion of projected cash flows stemming from its FFELP student loan portfolio. We could recognize further impairments in the future, and we may never realize the full value of our intangible assets. If these events occur, our profitability and financial condition will suffer.
Regulatory and Legal
Federal and state laws and regulations can restrict our businesses and increase compliance costs, and noncompliance could result in penalties, litigation, reputation damage, and a loss of customers.
Our operating segments are heavily regulated by federal and state government regulatory agencies. See Part I, Item 1, "Regulation and Supervision." These agencies and the laws and regulations enforced by them are for the protection of consumers and the applicable industry as a whole, and compliance with these laws and regulations can be difficult and costly. Although we endeavor to comply with our obligations and have procedures and controls in place to monitor compliance with regulatory requirements, these laws and regulations are complex, differ between jurisdictions, and are often subject to interpretation. If we fail to comply with these laws and regulations, even if our failed efforts were in good faith or a result of a difference in interpretation, we could be subject to restrictions on our business activities, incur fines or penalties, lose existing or new customer contracts or other business, become subject to litigation, and suffer damage to our reputation. New laws and regulations or changes to existing laws and regulations can significantly alter our business environment, limit business operations, and increase costs of doing business, and we cannot predict the impact such changes may have on our profitability.
For example, the CFPB has the authority to regulate and monitor large nonbank student loan servicers, including us. If the CFPB were to determine that we were not in compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and CFPB guidance, it could result in material adverse consequences including fines, penalties, public enforcement actions, adverse regulatory actions, or changes in our business practices or product offerings. The CFPB has also issued student loan servicing rules and continues to review servicing areas where new guidance or rules may be issued in the future. One such area under review is the return to repayment for federally owned students loans following a payment pause of more than three years due to the COVID-19 emergency. Since the restart of required repayments in October 2023, the CFPB has been closely monitoring student loan servicers and consumer complaints and if it determines there may have been violations of consumer financial protection laws, they may determine that we are not in compliance with applicable laws, regulations, or guidance which could result in material adverse consequences including restitution to consumers.
It is uncertain how the CFPB's recommendations, strategies, and priorities will impact our businesses and our results of operations going forward. CFPB actions could result in requirements to alter our products or services, causing them to be less attractive or effective and impair our ability to offer them profitably. If the CFPB changes regulations or interpretations of regulations, or otherwise modifies regulatory guidance, our compliance costs and litigation exposure could increase.
Many states have enacted laws regulating and monitoring the activity of student loan servicers. For additional information, including risks to us from such state laws, see the paragraph beginning with the same sentence as the immediately preceding sentence that is set forth in Part I, Item 1, “Regulation and Supervision - Loan Servicing and Systems.”
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As a result of the discontinuation of new FFELP loan originations in 2010, the existing FFELP loan portfolios in our AGM segment will continue to decline over time.
New loan originations under the FFEL Program were discontinued in 2010, and all subsequent federal student loan originations must be made under the Federal Direct Loan Program. Although this did not alter or affect the terms and conditions of existing FFELP loans, interest income related to existing FFELP loans will decline over time as existing FFELP loans are paid down, refinanced, or repaid by guaranty agencies after default. We believe that in the short term we will not be able to invest the excess cash generated from our AGM segment’s FFELP loan portfolio into assets that immediately generate the rates of return historically realized from that portfolio. If we are unable to grow or develop new revenue streams, our consolidated revenue and operating margin will decrease as a result of the decline in FFELP loan volume outstanding.
Exposure related to certain tax issues could decrease our net income.
Federal and state tax laws and regulations are often complex and require interpretation. From time to time, we engage in transactions for which the tax consequences are uncertain, and significant judgment is required in assessing and estimating the tax consequences of these transactions. We prepare and file tax returns based on the interpretation of tax laws and regulations and our tax returns are subject to examination by various taxing authorities. Such examinations may result in future tax and interest assessments. In accordance with applicable accounting guidance, we establish reserves for tax contingencies related to deductions and credits that we may be unable to sustain. Differences between these reserves and the amounts ultimately owed are recorded in the period they become known, and adjustments to our reserves could have a material effect on our financial statements. We may also be impacted by changes in tax laws, including tax rate changes, new laws, and subsequent interpretations by applicable authorities. In addition, several states are in a deficit position. Accordingly, states may look to expand their taxable base, alter their tax calculation, or increase tax rates, which could result in additional costs to the us.
In addition, as both a lender and servicer of student loans, we must report interest received and cancellation of indebtedness to individuals and the Internal Revenue Service on an annual basis. The statutory and regulatory guidance regarding the calculations, recipients, and timing are complex, and we know that interpretations of these rules vary across the industry. The complexity and volume associated with these informational forms creates a risk of error which could result in penalties or damage to our reputation.
Our investments in certain tax-advantaged projects promoting renewable energy resources (solar projects) are designed to generate a return primarily through the realization of federal income tax credits at the time the project is placed-in-service. We are subject to the risk that tax credits previously recorded by us, which remain subject to recapture by taxing authorities based on compliance features required to be met at the project level, will fail to meet certain government compliance requirements and will not be able to be realized. The inability to realize these tax credits and other tax benefits would have an adverse impact on our financial results. The risk of not realizing the tax credits and other tax benefits depends on many factors outside of our control, including changes in tax laws and the ability of the projects to continue operation.
The provisions of our articles of incorporation requiring exclusive forum in the Nebraska state courts and the federal district courts of the United States for certain types of lawsuits may have the effect of discouraging certain lawsuits by limiting plaintiffs’ ability to bring a claim in a judicial forum that they find favorable.
Our articles of incorporation provide that, unless we consent in writing to the selection of an alternative forum, to the fullest extent permitted by law, a specifically designated Nebraska state court located in Lincoln, Nebraska (or, if that court does not have jurisdiction, the federal district court for the District of Nebraska located in Lincoln, Nebraska) will be the sole and exclusive forum for: (i) any derivative action or proceeding brought on behalf or in the right of us; (ii) any action asserting a claim of breach of a fiduciary duty owed by any of our directors, officers, or employees to us or our shareholders; (iii) any action asserting a claim arising under any provision of the Nebraska Model Business Corporation Act or our articles of incorporation or bylaws (as each may be amended from time to time); or (iv) any action asserting a claim governed by the internal affairs doctrine.
Additionally, our articles of incorporation provide that, unless we consent in writing to the selection of an alternative forum, to the fullest extent permitted by law, the federal district courts of the United States of America will be the sole and exclusive forum for the resolution of any complaint asserting a cause of action arising under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended.
These exclusive forum provisions may limit the ability of our shareholders to commence litigation in a forum that they prefer, which may discourage such lawsuits against us and our current or former directors, officers, and employees.
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Principal Shareholder and Related Party Transactions
Our Executive Chairman beneficially owns 81.4% of the voting rights of our shareholders and effectively has control over all of our matters.
Michael S. Dunlap, our Executive Chairman, beneficially owns 81.4% of the voting rights of our shareholders. Accordingly, each member of the Board of Directors and each member of management has been elected or effectively appointed by Mr. Dunlap and can be removed by him. As a result, Mr. Dunlap has control over all of our matters and has the ability to take actions that benefit him, but may not benefit other minority shareholders, and may otherwise exercise his control in a manner with which other minority shareholders may not agree or which they may not consider to be in their best interests.
Furthermore, as a "controlled company" within the meaning of the NYSE rules, we qualify for and, in the future, may opt to rely on, exemptions from certain corporate governance requirements, including having a majority of independent directors, as well as having nominating and corporate governance and compensation committees composed entirely of independent directors. If in the future we choose to rely on such exemptions, the interests of Mr. Dunlap may differ from those of our other stockholders and the other stockholders may not have the same protections afforded to stockholders of companies that are subject to all of the corporate governance rules for NYSE-listed companies. Our status as a controlled company could make our Class A common stock less attractive to some investors or otherwise harm our stock price.
Our contractual arrangements and transactions with Union Bank, which is under common control with us, present conflicts of interest and pose risks to our shareholders that the terms may not be as favorable to us as we could receive from unrelated third parties.
Union Bank is controlled by Farmers & Merchants Investment Inc. ("F&M"), which is controlled by certain grantor retained annuity trusts established by Mr. Dunlap, his spouse, and Angela L. Muhleisen, a sister of Mr. Dunlap. Mr. Dunlap serves as a Director and Co-Chairperson of F&M, and as a Director of Union Bank. Ms. Muhleisen serves as a Director, Co-Chairperson, and Chief Executive Officer of F&M and as a Director, Chairperson, and member of the executive committee of Union Bank. Union Bank is deemed to beneficially own a significant number of our shares because it serves in a capacity of trustee or account manager for various trusts and accounts holding our shares and may share voting and/or investment power with respect to such shares. As of December 31, 2023, Union Bank was deemed to beneficially own 7.0% of the voting rights of our shareholders, and Mr. Dunlap and Ms. Muhleisen beneficially owned 81.4% and 8.9%, respectively, of the voting rights of our shareholders (with certain shares deemed under SEC rules to be beneficially owned by each Union Bank, Mr. Dunlap, and Ms. Muhleisen).
We have entered into, and intend to continue entering into, certain contractual arrangements with Union Bank, including for loan purchases, servicing, participations, banking and lending services, Educational 529 College Savings Plan administration services, lease arrangements, trustee services, and various other investment and advisory services. The net aggregate impact on our consolidated statements of income for the years ended December 31, 2023, 2022, and 2021 related to the transactions with Union Bank was income (before income taxes) of $9.4 million, $8.9 million, and $11.0 million, respectively. See note 22 of the notes to consolidated financial statements included in this report for additional information related to the transactions between us and Union Bank.
We intend to maintain our relationship with Union Bank, which our management believes provides certain benefits to us, including Union Bank's knowledge of and experience in the FFELP industry, its willingness to provide services, and at times liquidity and capital resources, on an expedient basis, and its proximity to our corporate headquarters in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The majority of the transactions and arrangements with Union Bank are not offered to unrelated third parties or subject to competitive bids. Accordingly, these transactions and arrangements not only present conflicts of interest, but also pose the risk to our shareholders that the terms of such transactions and arrangements may not be as favorable to us as we could receive from unrelated third parties. Moreover, we may have and/or may enter into contracts and business transactions with related parties that benefit Mr. Dunlap and his sister, as well as other related parties, that may not benefit us and/or our minority shareholders.
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ITEM 1B. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
The Company has no unresolved comments from the staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding its periodic or current reports under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
ITEM 1C. CYBERSECURITY
The Company’s enterprise-wide cybersecurity program is embedded within and integrated with the enterprise risk management function. The Chief Security Officer is part of our senior leadership team and reports to the Chief Risk Officer. Our Chief Security Officer has over thirty years of cybersecurity, technology, and leadership experience both as a career active-duty military cyber operations officer and in the private sector. The cybersecurity team is organized into three departments: Protective Operations, Posture Management, and Governance, Risk, and Compliance. Each of the three departments identifies, assesses, and manages material cybersecurity threats through specific approaches as further described below.
Protective Operations includes the Security Operations Center, cyber threat intelligence, offensive security, and application security teams. New cybersecurity threats surface daily, and existing cybersecurity threats evolve constantly. Our 24x7x365 in-house Security Operations Center is organized to not only monitor for signs of intrusion but also to provide contextual threat intelligence to system and platform owners across the enterprise, empowering them to take an active role in defending the enterprise. The Security Operations Center conducts daily briefings, identifies emerging cyber threats affecting the financial and education sectors, and reviews new tactics, techniques, and procedures utilized by cyber criminals and nation-state cyber actors. The Security Operations Center is also our incident response team, and ensures that the Company is prepared to detect, analyze, contain, eradicate, and recover from cyber incidents. While we have experienced cybersecurity incidents in the past, to date none have materially affected us, including our business strategy, results of operations, or financial condition. Our offensive security team conducts continuous threat-based and risk-based red team activities, and our application security team utilizes a combination of training, tools, code reviews, and awareness to ensure that our applications are developed with security at the forefront. We also engage with professional cybersecurity firms to conduct penetration tests on specific systems and applications annually. For more information about the cybersecurity risks we face, see the factors set forth under the caption “Risk Factors” in Part I, Item 1A of this report.
Posture Management includes the vulnerability management, log operations, and architecture and engineering teams. Our vulnerability management team conducts regular scans of our enterprise to look for potential weaknesses and configuration-related issues. Based on the results of these scans, this team routinely patches or works with system and platform owners to resolve identified vulnerabilities. Our log operations team works closely as a bridge between the system owners and our Security Operations Center by ensuring that activities on our systems and applications are logged and monitored. Our architecture and engineering team manages security appliances and provides security architecture advice and consulting to our information technology and delivery teams throughout the enterprise. When it comes to posture management, our goal is not just to reactively resolve potential vulnerabilities discovered through the vulnerability management process; we also look for ways to ensure that vulnerabilities don’t materialize through minimizing system ports, protocols, and services to only that which is necessary.
Governance, Risk, and Compliance includes the risk management and compliance management teams. This team manages the security awareness program, compliance with cyber and privacy regulations, security policies, and prioritizes potential cyber risks that require ongoing monitoring or remediation. Identified risks are brought to the Cyber Risk Steering Committee for treatment. The Chief Security Officer chairs the committee, which consists of the Deputy Chief Security Officer, cybersecurity managers, various subject matter experts, and (as needed) members of management from operational areas of the business.
The Company’s business segments and support teams also work closely with cybersecurity and enterprise risk management to monitor and manage third-party risks. Managing third-party risks includes maintaining a close and effective working relationship with the information technology procurement, accounting, and legal teams. In addition to identifying risks as part of the third-party selection process, we continuously monitor our third parties using products and services that provide us insight into their attack surface, threats that can impact us through them, and real-world security posture.
Audits are an important part of our layers of defense; they can help us to identify areas in which we have incomplete coverage or ineffective placement of controls. The Company has an independent internal audit team that conducts audits based on their own methodology and assessment and we utilize external cybersecurity auditors, where applicable. In addition, certain lines of business utilize other third-party cybersecurity auditors for PCI DSS assessments and PCI ASV scans; and we are routinely audited by our customers.
The Company’s Board of Directors and Board Risk and Finance Committee oversee our integrated enterprise risk management and cybersecurity programs. The Board Risk and Finance Committee receive regular reports from the Chief Risk Officer and Chief Security Officer on key company risks and emerging threats. These reports also include cybersecurity monitoring and
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threat response metrics, industry trends and educational materials, risk mitigation strategies, regulatory requirements, corporate policies, third-party risk metrics, cybersecurity tools and resources, incident response plans, and other areas of importance.
ITEM 2. PROPERTIES
The Company's headquarters are located in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Company owns or leases office space facilities primarily in Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Colorado.
The Company believes its existing office space facilities and equipment, which are used by all reportable segments, are in good operating condition and are suitable for the conduct of its business.
ITEM 3. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
Note 24 of the notes to consolidated financial statements included in this report is incorporated herein by reference.
ITEM 4. MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES
Not applicable.
PART II.
ITEM 5. MARKET FOR REGISTRANT'S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS, AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES
The Company's Class A common stock is listed and traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “NNI,” while its Class B common stock is not publicly traded. The number of holders of record of the Company's Class A common stock and Class B common stock as of January 31, 2024 was 1,742 and 69, respectively. The record holders of the Class B common stock are Michael S. Dunlap, Shelby J. Butterfield, various members of the Dunlap and Butterfield families, and various other estate planning trusts established by and/or entities controlled by them. Because many shares of the Company's Class A common stock are held by brokers and other institutions on behalf of shareholders, the Company is unable to estimate the total number of beneficial owners represented by these record holders.
The Company paid quarterly cash dividends on its Class A and Class B common stock during the years ended December 31, 2023 and 2022 and in amounts totaling $1.06 per share and $0.98 per share, respectively. The Company plans to continue making comparable regular quarterly dividend payments, subject to future earnings, capital requirements, financial condition, and other factors.

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Performance Graph
The following graph compares the change in the cumulative total shareholder return on the Company's Class A common stock to that of the cumulative return of the S&P 500 Index and the S&P 500 Financials Index. The graph assumes that the value of an investment in the Company's Class A common stock and each index was $100 on December 31, 2018 and that all dividends, if applicable, were reinvested. The performance shown in the graph represents past performance and should not be considered an indication of future performance.
totalreturngraph2023.jpg
Company/Index
12/31/2018
12/31/2019
12/31/2020
12/31/2021
12/31/2022
12/31/2023
Nelnet, Inc.$100.00 $112.64 $139.72 $193.78 $182.08 $179.09 
S&P 500100.00 131.49 155.68 200.37 164.08 207.21 
S&P 500 Financials100.00 132.13 129.89 175.40 156.92 175.99 
The preceding information under the caption “Performance Graph” shall be deemed to be “furnished” but not “filed” with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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Stock Repurchases
The following table summarizes the repurchases of Class A common stock during the fourth quarter of 2023 by the Company or any “affiliated purchaser” of the Company, as defined in Rule 10b-18(a)(3) under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Certain share repurchases included in the table below were made pursuant to a trading plan adopted by the Company in accordance with Rule 10b5-1 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
PeriodTotal number of shares purchased (a)Average price paid per share (b)Total number of shares purchased as part of publicly announced plans or programs (c)Maximum number of shares that may yet be purchased under the plans or programs (c)
October 1 - October 31, 20232,782 $82.62 2,735 4,464,286 
November 1 - November 30, 2023283,112 81.52 283,112 4,181,174 
December 1 - December 31, 20233,854 86.01 — 4,181,174 
Total289,748 $81.59 285,847  
(a)    The total number of shares includes: (i) shares repurchased pursuant to the stock repurchase program discussed in footnote (c) below; and (ii) shares owned and tendered by employees to satisfy tax withholding obligations upon the vesting of restricted shares. Shares purchased pursuant to the applicable stock repurchase program discussed in footnote (c) below consisted of a total of 283,112 shares of Class A common stock purchased in a privately negotiated transaction on November 13, 2023. Shares of Class A common stock tendered by employees to satisfy tax withholding obligations included 47 shares and 3,854 shares in October and December 2023, respectively. Unless otherwise indicated, shares owned and tendered by employees to satisfy tax withholding obligations were purchased at the closing price of the Company’s shares on the date of vesting.
(b)    The average price of shares repurchased excludes excise taxes.
(c)    On May 9, 2022, the Company announced that its Board of Directors authorized a new stock repurchase program to repurchase up to a total of five million shares of the Company's Class A common stock during the three-year period ending May 8, 2025.
Equity Compensation Plans
For information regarding the securities authorized for issuance under the Company's equity compensation plans, see Part III, Item 12 of this report.
ITEM 6. [RESERVED]
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ITEM 7. MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS
(Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations is for the years ended December 31, 2023, 2022 and 2021. All dollars are in thousands, except share data, unless otherwise noted.)
The following discussion and analysis provides information that the Company’s management believes is relevant to an assessment and understanding of the consolidated results of operations and financial condition of the Company. The discussion and analysis should be read in conjunction with the Company’s consolidated financial statements and related notes included in this report. This discussion and analysis contains forward-looking statements subject to various risks and uncertainties and should be read in conjunction with the disclosures and information contained in "Forward-Looking and Cautionary Statements" and Item 1A "Risk Factors" included in this report.
OVERVIEW
The Company is a diverse, innovative company with a purpose to serve others and a vision to make dreams possible. The largest operating businesses engage in loan servicing and education technology services and payments. A significant portion of the Company's revenue is net interest income earned on a portfolio of federally insured student loans. The Company also makes investments to further diversify both within and outside of its historical core education-related businesses including, but not limited to, investments in a fiber communications company (ALLO), early-stage and emerging growth companies (venture capital investments), real estate, and renewable energy (solar).
The Company was formed as a Nebraska corporation in 1978 to service federal student loans for two local banks. The Company built on this initial foundation as a servicer to become a leading originator, holder, and servicer of federal student loans, principally consisting of loans originated under the FFEL Program.
The Reconciliation Act of 2010 discontinued new loan originations under the FFEL Program in 2010, and requires all new federal student loan originations be made directly by the Department through the Federal Direct Loan Program. Subsequent to the Reconciliation Act of 2010, the Company no longer originates FFELP loans. However, a significant portion of the Company's income continues to be derived from its existing FFELP student loan portfolio. Interest income on the Company's existing FFELP loan portfolio will decline over time as the portfolio is paid down. To reduce its reliance on interest income from FFELP loans, the Company has expanded its services and products. This expansion has been accomplished through internal growth and innovation as well as business and certain investment acquisitions. The Company is also actively expanding its private education, consumer, and other loan portfolios, or investment interests therein, and as part of this strategy launched Nelnet Bank in 2020. In addition, the Company has been servicing federally owned student loans for the Department since 2009.

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GAAP Net Income and Non-GAAP Net Income, Excluding Adjustments
The Company prepares its financial statements and presents its financial results in accordance with GAAP. However, it also provides additional non-GAAP financial information related to specific items management believes to be important in the evaluation of its operating results and performance. A reconciliation of the Company's GAAP net income to Non-GAAP net income, excluding derivative market value adjustments, and a discussion of why the Company believes providing this additional information is useful to investors, is provided below.
Year ended December 31,
202320222021
GAAP net income attributable to Nelnet, Inc.$91,532 407,347 393,286 
Realized and unrealized derivative market value adjustments41,773 (231,691)(92,813)
Tax effect (a)(10,026)55,606 22,275 
Non-GAAP net income attributable to Nelnet, Inc., excluding derivative market value adjustments (b)$123,279 231,262 322,748 
Earnings per share:
GAAP net income attributable to Nelnet, Inc.$2.45 10.83 10.20 
Realized and unrealized derivative market value adjustments1.12 (6.16)(2.41)
Tax effect (a)(0.28)1.48 0.58 
Non-GAAP net income attributable to Nelnet, Inc., excluding derivative market value adjustments (b)$3.29 6.15 8.37 
(a)    The tax effects are calculated by multiplying the realized and unrealized derivative market value adjustments by the applicable statutory income tax rate.
(b)    "Derivative market value adjustments" includes both the realized portion of gains and losses (corresponding to variation margin received or paid on derivative instruments that are settled daily at a central clearinghouse) and the unrealized portion of gains and losses that are caused by changes in fair values of derivatives which do not qualify for "hedge treatment" under GAAP. "Derivative market value adjustments" does not include "derivative settlements" that represent the cash paid or received during the current period to settle with derivative instrument counterparties the economic effect of the Company's derivative instruments based on their contractual terms.
The accounting for derivatives requires that changes in the fair value of derivative instruments be recognized currently in earnings, with no fair value adjustment of the hedged item, unless specific hedge accounting criteria is met. Management has structured all of the Company’s derivative transactions with the intent that each is economically effective; however, the Company’s derivative instruments do not qualify for hedge accounting in the consolidated financial statements. As a result, the change in fair value of derivative instruments is reported in current period earnings with no consideration for the corresponding change in fair value of the hedged item. Under GAAP, the cumulative net realized and unrealized gain or loss caused by changes in fair values of derivatives in which the Company plans to hold to maturity will equal zero over the life of the contract. However, the net realized and unrealized gain or loss during any given reporting period fluctuates significantly from period to period.
The Company believes these point-in-time estimates of asset and liability values related to its derivative instruments that are subject to interest rate fluctuations are subject to volatility mostly due to timing and market factors beyond the control of management, and affect the period-to-period comparability of the results of operations. Accordingly, the Company’s management utilizes operating results excluding these items for comparability purposes when making decisions regarding the Company’s performance and in presentations with credit rating agencies, lenders, and investors. Consequently, the Company reports this non-GAAP information because the Company believes that it provides additional information regarding operational and performance indicators that are closely assessed by management. There is no comprehensive, authoritative guidance for the presentation of such non-GAAP information, which is only meant to supplement GAAP results by providing additional information that management utilizes to assess performance.
Operating Segments
The Company's reportable operating segments are described in note 1 of the notes to consolidated financial statements included in this report. They include:
Loan Servicing and Systems (LSS) - referred to as Nelnet Diversified Services (NDS)
Education Technology Services and Payments (ETSP) - referred to as Nelnet Business Services (NBS)
Asset Generation and Management (AGM), part of the Nelnet Financial Services (NFS) division
Nelnet Bank, part of the NFS division
The Company earns fee-based revenue through its NDS and NBS reportable operating segments. The Company earns net interest income on its loan portfolio, consisting primarily of FFELP loans, in its AGM reportable operating segment. This segment is expected to generate significant amounts of cash as the FFELP portfolio amortizes. The Company actively works to maximize the amount and timing of cash flows generated from its FFELP portfolio and seeks to acquire additional loan assets to leverage its servicing scale and expertise to generate incremental earnings and cash flow. Nelnet Bank operates as an internet
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industrial bank franchise focused on the private education and unsecured consumer loan markets, with a home office in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The Company formally established the Nelnet Financial Services division in 2023 intended to focus on the Company’s key objective to maximize the amount and timing of cash flows generated from its FFELP portfolio and reposition itself for the post-FFELP environment by expanding its private education, consumer, and other loan portfolios.
The creation of NFS resulted in financial results grouped and reported differently to the Company’s chief operating decision maker. In addition to AGM and Nelnet Bank being part of the NFS division, NFS’s other operating segments that are not reportable (that were previously included in Corporate and Other Activities) include:
The operating results of Whitetail Rock Capital Management, LLC (WRCM), the Company's U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)-registered investment advisor subsidiary
The operating results of Nelnet Insurance Services, which primarily includes multiple reinsurance treaties on property and causality policies
The operating results of the Company’s investment activities in real estate
The operating results of the Company’s investment debt securities (primarily student loan and other asset-backed securities) and interest expense incurred on debt used to finance such investments
Other business activities and operating segments that are not reportable and not part of the NFS division are combined and included in Corporate and Other Activities ("Corporate"). Corporate includes the following items:
Shared service activities related to internal audit, human resources, accounting, legal, enterprise risk management, information technology, occupancy, and marketing. These costs are allocated to each operating segment based on estimated use of such activities and services
Corporate costs and overhead functions not allocated to operating segments, including executive management, investments in innovation, and other holding company organizational costs
The operating results of Nelnet Renewable Energy, which include solar tax equity investments made by the Company, administrative and management services provided by the Company on tax equity investments made by third parties, and solar construction and development
The operating results of certain of the Company’s investment activities, including its investment in ALLO and early-stage and emerging growth companies (venture capital investments)
Interest income earned on cash balances held at the corporate level and interest expense incurred on unsecured corporate related debt transactions
Other product and service offerings that are not considered reportable operating segments














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The following table presents the operating results (net income (loss) before taxes) for each of the Company’s reportable and certain other operating segments reconciled to the consolidated financial statements.
Year ended December 31,
202320222021
NDS$77,714 64,456 62,445 
NBS91,101 74,105 72,713 
Nelnet Financial Services division:
AGM80,636 454,725 423,616 
Nelnet Bank(368)4,357 (792)
NFS Other Operating Segments50,872 51,502 43,123 
Corporate:
Unallocated corporate costs(63,223)(72,183)(72,673)
Nelnet Renewable Energy(108,991)(11,639)(12,029)
ALLO investment(57,972)(65,245)(35,123)
Venture capital investments(6,008)12,449 23,256 
Other corporate activities10,428 (3,065)(2,431)
Net income before taxes74,188 509,465 502,105 
Income tax expense(19,753)(113,224)(115,822)
Net loss attributable to noncontrolling interests (a)37,097 11,106 7,003 
Net income$91,532 407,347 393,286 
(a) For the periods presented, the majority of noncontrolling interests represents losses attributed to noncontrolling membership interests in the Company’s Nelnet Renewable Energy operating segment, which were $37.6 million, $11.6 million, and $7.7 million in 2023, 2022, and 2021, respectively.
2023 Operating and Liquidity Highlights
See below for a summary of (i) certain highlights of the Company’s 2023 operating results; (ii) a description of significant and/or unusual events and transactions in 2023 that impacted and may potentially impact the Company’s operating results; and (iii) a summary of the Company’s current liquidity, including certain items that impacted the Company’s liquidity in 2023. See “Results of Operations” for each reportable operating segment, the NFS division, and Corporate and Other Activities and “Liquidity and Capital Resources” under this Item 7 for additional detail.
Loan Servicing and Systems
Effective April 1, 2023, the Department modified the loan servicing contract between the Department and Nelnet Servicing to reduce the monthly fee under the servicing contract by $0.19 per borrower. In addition, beginning in the second quarter of 2023, the Department transferred one million of the Company’s existing Department servicing borrowers to another third-party servicer. These items negatively impacted LSS’s government servicing revenue in 2023.
In the first quarter of 2023, the Company reduced staff to manage expenses due to (i) the delays in the government’s student debt relief and return to repayment programs under the CARES Act, (ii) the April 2023 monthly fee reduction on the government contract, and (iii) the transfer of government borrowers from the Company to another servicer. The staff reductions resulted in salaries and benefits expense being reduced in 2023 as compared with 2022. In 2022, the Company was fully staffed in preparation of the expiration of the student loan payment pause under the CARES Act. In August 2023, the Company began to hire additional associates to support borrowers returning to repayment on September 1, 2023.
In April 2023, the Company and four other third-party servicers were awarded servicing contracts to provide continued servicing for the Department under a new Unified Servicing and Data Solutions (USDS) contract which will replace the existing Department student loans servicing contracts. The Company’s new contract has a five year base period, with 5 years of possible extensions. The new USDS servicing contracts have multiple revenue components with tiered pricing based on borrower volume, while revenue earned under the legacy servicing contract is primarily based on borrower status. Assuming borrower volume remains consistent under the USDS servicing contract, the Company expects revenue earned on a per borrower blended basis will decrease under the USDS contract versus the current legacy contract.
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Education Technology Services and Payments
Education technology services and payments revenue grew to $463.3 million in 2023. The growth was from existing and new customers. Operating margin decreased from recent historical periods as a result of continued investments in the development of new services and technologies and superior customer service. Due to an increase in interest rates, the Company recognized $27.0 million in interest income on tuition funds held in custody for schools, an increase from $9.4 million in 2022.
Asset Generation and Management
Net interest income was negatively impacted in 2023 due to the expected continued amortization of the Company’s FFELP student loan portfolio. The average balance of student loans decreased $2.7 billion from $16.0 billion in 2022 to $13.3 billion in 2023. Since late 2021, the Company has experienced accelerated run-off of its FFELP portfolio due to initiatives offered by the Department for FFELP borrowers to consolidate their loans to qualify for loan forgiveness, income-driven repayment plans, and other programs. Interest income was also negatively impacted by an increase in interest rates. As a result of an increase in interest rates, gross fixed rate floor income recognized by the Company was only $2.2 million in 2023 compared with $57.4 million in 2022. Based on current interest rates, the Company does not anticipate earning a significant amount of fixed rate floor income in the foreseeable future.
In the second quarter of 2023, the Company redeemed certain asset-backed debt securities prior to their maturity, resulting in the recognition of $25.9 million in interest expense from the write-off of the remaining unamortized debt discount associated with these bonds at the time of redemption.
Nelnet Renewable Energy
Nelnet Renewable Energy includes solar tax equity investments made by the Company, administrative and management services provided by the Company on tax equity investments made by third parties, and solar construction and development. During 2023, the Company invested a total of $185.1 million (which included $94.5 million syndicated to third-party investors) in solar tax equity investments. Due to the management and control of each of these investment partnerships, such partnerships that invest in tax equity investments are consolidated on the Company’s consolidated financial statements, with the co-investor’s portion being presented as noncontrolling interests. Included in the Company’s operating results is the Company's share of income or loss from solar investments accounted for under the Hypothetical Liquidation at Book Value (HLBV) method of accounting. For the majority of the Company's solar investments, the HLBV method of accounting results in accelerated losses in the initial years of investment. Nelnet Renewable Energy recognized pre-tax losses on its tax equity investments of $46.7 million in 2023, which includes $26.4 million attributable to noncontrolling interests.
In periods in which the Company makes significant investments in solar tax equity investments, operating results are negatively impacted due to the accelerated losses recognized in the initial years of investment. However, given the timing and amount of cash flows expected to be generated over the life of these investments, the Company considers these investments a good use of capital. Through December 31, 2023, the Company has recognized cumulative pre-tax losses (excluding noncontrolling interests) of approximately $56 million on its tax equity investments. The Company expects its current investments (assuming no additional investments are made subsequent to December 31, 2023) to generate approximately $78 million of pre-tax earnings (excluding noncontrolling interests) over the life of the investments. Accordingly, the Company expects to recognize approximately $134 million in pre-tax income (excluding noncontrolling interests) over the remaining years of its current investments.
In addition to solar tax equity investments, the Company has a strategy to own solar energy project assets. Accordingly, the Company has begun to execute a multi-faceted approach to construct, finance, own, and operate these assets. As part of this strategy, on July 1, 2022, the Company acquired 80% of GRNE Solar, a solar construction company that provides full-service engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) services to residential homes and commercial entities. Since the acquisition of GRNE, it has incurred low and, in some cases, negative margins on certain projects. In addition, higher interest rates reduced residential demand and made community solar projects more costly. GRNE Solar recognized a net loss of $34.2 million in 2023. In the fourth quarter of 2023, the Company recognized an impairment charge of $20.6 million related to goodwill and certain intangible assets initially recognized from the GRNE Solar acquisition. Due to the complexity and long-term nature of GRNE’s existing construction contracts, GRNE may continue to incur low and/or negative margins to complete projects currently under contract.
Investments - ALLO and Hudl
The Company has a 45% voting membership interests in ALLO. The Company accounts for its ALLO voting membership interests investment under the HLBV method of accounting that resulted in the recognition of a net loss of $65.3 million during 2023. As of December 31, 2023, the carrying amount of the Company’s investment in ALLO was $10.7 million. The Company expects to fully expense the remaining investment balance of ALLO during the first quarter of 2024.
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The Company has an investment in Agile Sports Technologies, Inc. (doing business as “Hudl.”) During the first quarter of 2023, the Company acquired additional ownership interests in Hudl for $31.5 million from existing Hudl investors. This transaction was not considered an observable market transaction (not orderly) because it was not subject to customary marketing activities. Accordingly, the Company did not adjust its carrying value of its Hudl investment to the transaction value. As of December 31, 2023, the carrying amount of the Company's investment in Hudl is $165.5 million.
Certain investments, including solar tax equity, ALLO, and Hudl, may be recorded at a carrying value that is less than its market value due to HLBV (solar investments and ALLO) and the measurement alternative (Hudl) method of accounting. Future operating results of solar and ALLO or an observable transaction of Hudl could impact the valuation on our financial statements or our investments in them and may result in significant fluctuations of the Company’s earnings.
Liquidity
The Company had a significant portfolio of derivative instruments, in which the Company paid a fixed rate and received a floating rate to economically hedge loans earning fixed rate floor income. On March 15, 2023, to minimize the Company's exposure to market volatility and increase liquidity, the Company terminated its entire derivative portfolio hedging loans earning fixed rate floor income and retained the $183.2 million of cash (representing the termination date fair value of the derivatives) from its clearinghouse.
As of December 31, 2023, the Company had $740.0 million of unencumbered cash and investments. In addition, the Company has a $495.0 million unsecured line of credit that matures in September 2026. No amounts were outstanding on the line of credit as of December 31, 2023. In addition, as of December 31, 2023, the Company expects to generate future undiscounted cash flows from its AGM loan portfolio of approximately $1.30 billion, including approximately $850.0 million in the next five years.
The Company intends to use its liquidity position to capitalize on market opportunities, including FFELP, private education, consumer, and other loan acquisitions (or investment interests therein); strategic acquisitions and investments; and capital management initiatives, including stock repurchases, debt repurchases, and dividend distributions. The timing and size of these opportunities will vary and will have a direct impact on the Company's cash and investment balances.
CONSOLIDATED RESULTS OF OPERATIONS
An analysis of the Company's consolidated operating results for the years ended December 31, 2023, 2022, and 2021 is provided below.
The Company’s operating results are primarily driven by the performance of its existing loan portfolio and the revenues generated by its fee-based businesses and the costs to provide such services. The performance of the Company’s portfolio is driven by net interest income (which includes financing costs) and losses related to credit quality of the assets, along with the cost to administer and service the assets and related debt.
The Company operates as distinct reportable operating segments as described above. For a reconciliation of the reportable segment operating results to the consolidated results of operations, see note 16 of the notes to consolidated financial statements included in this report. Since the Company monitors and assesses its operations and results based on these segments, the discussion following the consolidated results of operations is presented on a reportable segment basis.
 Year ended December 31,
 202320222021Additional information
Loan interest$931,945 651,205 482,337 Increases due to an increase in the gross yield earned on loans, partially offset by a decrease in the average balance of loans and in gross fixed rate floor income.
Investment interest177,855 91,601 41,498 Includes income from unrestricted interest-earning deposits and investments in asset-backed securitizations. Increases due to an increase in interest earning investments and an increase in interest rates.
Total interest income1,109,800 742,806 523,835 
Interest expense845,091 430,137 176,233 
Increases due to an increase in cost of funds, partially offset by a decrease in the average balance of debt outstanding. In 2023, the Company redeemed certain asset-backed debt securities prior to their maturity, resulting in the recognition of a $25.9 million non-cash expense from the write-off of the remaining debt discount associated with these bonds at the time of redemption. In 2021, the Company reduced interest expense by $23.8 million as a result of reversing a historical accrued interest liability on certain bonds, which liability the Company determined is no longer probable of being required to be paid. The liability was initially recorded when certain asset-backed securitizations were acquired in 2011 and 2013.
Net interest income264,709 312,669 347,602 
Less provision (negative provision) for loan losses65,450 46,441 (12,426)
Represents the current period provision (negative provision) to reflect the lifetime expected credit losses related to the Company’s loan portfolio. See note 3 of the notes to consolidated financial statements in this report for the factors impacting provision for loan losses for the periods presented.
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Net interest income after provision for loan losses199,259 266,228 360,028 
Other income (expense):  
LSS revenue517,954 535,459 486,363 See LSS operating segment - results of operations.
ETSP revenue
463,311 408,543 338,234 
See ETSP operating segment - results of operations.
Solar construction revenue31,669 24,543 — On July 1, 2022, the Company acquired 80% of the ownership interests of GRNE Solar. GRNE Solar designs and installs residential and commercial solar systems. The acquisition diversified the Company’s position in the renewable energy space to include solar construction.
Other, net(48,787)25,486 78,681 
See table below for components of “other, net.”
Gain on sale of loans, net39,673 2,903 18,715 
Represents net gains recognized from selling portfolios of loans. See note 3 of the notes to consolidated financial statements in this report for additional information.
Impairment expense(31,925)(15,523)(16,360)
Represents impairment charges recognized by the Company. See note 11 of the notes to consolidated financial statements in this report for identification of impairment by asset type and reportable segment.
Derivative settlements, net25,072 32,943 (21,367)The Company maintains an overall risk management strategy that incorporates the use of derivative instruments to reduce the economic effect of interest rate volatility. Derivative settlements for each applicable period should be evaluated with the Company's net interest income. The majority of derivative settlements received (paid) by the Company during the periods presented was from the Company’s derivatives used to hedge loans earning fixed rate floor income. To minimize the Company’s exposure to market volatility and increase liquidity, the Company terminated this derivative portfolio on March 15, 2023.
Derivative market value adjustments, net(41,773)231,691 92,813 Includes the realized and unrealized gains and losses that are caused by changes in fair values of derivatives which do not qualify for "hedge treatment" under GAAP. The majority of the derivative market value adjustments during the periods presented were related to the changes in fair value of the Company's floor income interest rate swaps. Such changes reflect that a decrease in the forward yield curve during a reporting period results in a decrease in the fair value of the Company's floor income interest rate swaps, and an increase in the forward yield curve during a reporting period results in an increase in the fair value of such swaps. To minimize the Company’s exposure to market volatility and increase liquidity, the Company terminated this derivative portfolio on March 15, 2023. As such, the Company expects the derivative market value adjustments in future periods will be less substantial.
Total other income (expense), net955,194 1,246,045 977,079 
Cost of services:  
Cost to provide education technology services and payments171,183 148,403 108,660 
Represents direct costs to provide payment processing and instructional services in ETSP. Increases were primarily due to additional instructional services costs. See ETSP operating segment - results of operations.
Cost to provide solar construction services48,576 19,971 — 
As noted above, the Company acquired GRNE Solar on July 1, 2022. These amounts represent direct costs related to GRNE providing solar construction services. Since the acquisition of GRNE, it has incurred low and, in some cases, negative margins on certain projects.
Total cost of services219,759 168,374 108,660 
Operating expenses:
Salaries and benefits591,537 589,579 507,132 
Increase was primarily due to an increase in headcount in ETSP to support the growth of its customer base and the investment in the development of new technologies. In 2023, increase was partially offset by staff reductions in LSS in the first two quarters of 2023 to manage expenses due to delays in the government’s student debt relief and return to repayment programs and lower pricing and reduced servicing volume for the Department servicing contract. In August 2023, LSS began to hire additional associates to support borrowers returning to repayment. In 2022, increase in salaries and benefits was driven by more associates at LSS as the Company had been required to prepare for the resumption of federal student loan payments upon the expiration of the CARES Act borrower relief provisions, which was extended several times throughout 2022.
Depreciation and amortization79,118 74,077 73,741 Includes depreciation of property and equipment and the amortization of intangibles from prior business acquisitions.
Other expenses189,851 170,778 145,469 
Other expense includes expenses necessary for operations, such as postage and distribution, consulting and professional fees, occupancy, communications, reinsurance loss reserve and acquisition costs, and certain information technology-related costs. Increase was due to higher costs for consulting, professional fees, and technology services resulting from investments in new technologies and an increase in costs for travel and in-person hosted conferences that had previously subsided due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the ETSP operating segment. In addition, increase in 2023 was due to an increase in reinsurance volume in the NFS division. Increase in 2022 compared with 2021 was also due to additional costs associated with the growth of borrowers under the government servicing contracts in the LSS operating segment.
Total operating expenses860,506 834,434 726,342 
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Income before income taxes74,188 509,465 502,105 
Income tax expense19,753 113,224 115,822 
The effective tax rate was 17.75%, 21.75%, and 22.75% for 2023, 2022, and 2021, respectively. The decrease in the effective tax rate in 2023 was due to a reduction in the dollar amounts of uncertain tax positions and recognized state tax incentives relative to the smaller amount of income before income taxes. The Company expects its future effective tax rate will range between 21% and 24%.
Net income54,435 396,241 386,283 
Net loss attributable to noncontrolling interests37,097 11,106 7,003 Amounts for noncontrolling interests reflect the net income/loss attributable to the holders of noncontrolling membership interests in WRCM, NextGen, multiple solar entities (including GRNE Solar), and multiple entities investing in federal opportunity zone programs.
Net income attributable to Nelnet, Inc.$91,532 407,347 393,286 
Additional information:
Net income attributable to Nelnet, Inc.$91,532 407,347 393,286 See "Overview - GAAP Net Income and Non-GAAP Net Income, Excluding Adjustments" above for additional information about non-GAAP net income, excluding derivative market value adjustments.
Derivative market value adjustments, net41,773