Sallie Mae Student Loans | Review

·10 min read
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Sallie Mae is one of the largest private student loan providers in the country. Since 2014, it has provided financing to over 1.4 million families.

Like other lenders, it offers competitive rates on undergraduate and graduate student loans. But unlike other lenders that only have loan options for those pursuing degrees, Sallie Mae also provides loans for career training, certificate programs, bar exam preparation and medical school residencies. With its variety of loan options, Sallie Mae is our choice for the best student lender for graduate school and non-degree programs.

Table of contents:

  • Sallie Mae Student Loans Overview

  • Sallie Mae’s Services

  • Sallie Mae’s Credentials

  • Sallie Mae’s Accessibility

  • Sallie Mae’s Customer Satisfaction

  • Sallie Mae FAQ

  • How We Evaluated Sallie Mae

  • Summary of Money’s Sallie Mae Review

Sallie Mae Student Loans Overview

Just how big is Sallie Mae? It has a 56% market share of private student loan originations, meaning more than half of all private student loans come from Sallie Mae. Last year, it originated over $5 billion in loans.

Sallie Mae is a common choice because it has many loan options for borrowers, multiple in-school repayment options and some additional features.

Pros

  • Loans available for career training, bar exam and medical residency

  • Cosigner releases available after one year

  • Multiple in-school repayment options

Cons

  • Late fees apply

  • No loan prequalification

  • High credit scores required

  • Parent loan program discontinued

With most private student loan lenders, enrollment in a degree-granting school — usually in a bachelor’s degree program or above — is required to qualify for a loan. For students in certificate programs or trade schools, finding loans can be more difficult.

Sallie Mae addresses that problem with its Smart Option student loan for career training programs. Students can borrow up to the total cost of attendance, making those programs more accessible. And student loan borrowers can take advantage of multiple in-school repayment options to make their monthly payments more affordable while in school.

Sallie Mae doesn’t list its credit score or income requirements, but it generally requires very good to excellent credit, especially for its lowest interest rates. According to Sallie Mae’s 2021 annual report, the average credit score of approved students or their cosigners was 750 at the time of approval. Since many college students don’t have established credit histories, most applicants will need a cosigner. In fact, Sallie Mae reported that 86% of its private student loans were cosigned in 2021.

If you do need a cosigner, keep in mind that Sallie Mae allows borrowers to apply for cosigner releases. And while some lenders make you wait two to four years before you can apply for a cosigner release, Sallie Mae permits borrowers to apply after just 12 months of consecutive, full interest and principal payments.

Sallie Mae doesn’t charge application or origination fees, and there are no prepayment penalties. However, there are late fees if your payment is past due. The late fee is 5.00% of the late payment amount or $25, whichever is less.

Sallie Mae’s Services

Through Sallie Mae, students can apply for private student loans for undergraduate school, graduate or professional programs and career training programs. Sallie Mae also offers credit cards, savings accounts and certificates of deposit (CDs).

What they offer: Private student loans

Sallie Mae’s loan minimum for all of its private loans is $1,000. For undergraduate and graduate students, the maximum loan amount is the total cost of attendance at your school. For other loan options, such as bar exam study or medical residency, loan maximums may vary. Sallie Mae offers fixed rates and variable rates for all its loan products.

Unlike other lenders that only offer loans to full-time students, Sallie Mae allows part-time students and individuals enrolled less-than-half-time to take out loans.

Sallie Mae Student Loans

Loan Amounts

Loan Terms

Repayment Options

Interest Rates

Undergraduate Student Loans

$1,000 to total cost of attendance

10 to 15 years

Immediate
Interest-only
Fixed
Deferred

Variable: 2.62% to 12.97%
Fixed: 3.75% to 13.72%

Graduate Student Loans

$1,000 to total cost of attendance

15 years

Immediate
Interest-only
Fixed
Deferred

Variable: 3.12% to 12.80%
Fixed: 4.25% to 12.92%

MBA

$1,000 to total cost of attendance

15 years

Immediate
Interest-only
Fixed
Deferred

Variable: 3.12% to 12.73%
Fixed: 4.25% to 12.85%

Law School

$1,000 to total cost of attendance

15 years

Immediate
Interest-only
Fixed
Deferred

Variable: 3.12% to 12.73%
Fixed: 4.25% to 12.85%

Dental or Medical School

$1,000 to total cost of attendance

20 years

Immediate
Interest-only
Fixed
Deferred

Variable: 3.12% to 12.72%
Fixed: 4.25% to 12.84%

Career Training

$1,000 to total cost of attendance

10 to 15 years

Immediate
Interest-only
Fixed
Deferred

Variable: 2.62% to 13.40%
Fixed: 3.75% to 14.08%

Medical or dental Residency

$1,000 to $30,000

20 years

Deferred

Variable: 4.36% to 9.97%
Fixed: 5.93% to 10.19%

Bar Exam

$1,000 to $15,000

15 years

Deferred

Variable: 4.39% to 14.03%
Fixed: 5.25% to 13.66%

Rates current as of August 1, 2022. Rates reflect a 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction.

Depending on the type of loans you have, you may have the following repayment options:

  • Immediate: Full monthly payments against the interest and principal while you’re in school

  • Interest-only: Payments only cover accrued monthly interest while you’re in school

  • Flat: Pay just $25 per month while in college

  • Deferred: Defer payments until after you leave school. You’ll typically have a six-month grace period before payments are required.

As an added bonus, Sallie Mae borrowers get four free months of Chegg Study, a service that provides exam prep, writing and math help.

What they don’t offer

When considering borrowing from Sallie Mae, consider these limitations:

  • No parent lending options: Previously, Sallie Mae offered parent student loans. Unlike other lenders, which only allow parents to borrow money to cover the cost of their child’s undergraduate degrees, Sallie Mae let parents take out loans to help children pay for graduate school and career training programs too. However, Sallie Mae discontinued its parent loan program at the end of 2021.

  • No prequalification: Sallie Mae doesn’t have a prequalification tool. Instead, you have to complete an application and agree to a hard credit check to view your eligibility.

  • No refinancing: Unlike other lenders, Sallie Mae doesn’t offer student loan refinancing. If you have existing loans you’d like to consolidate, you’ll have to work with another lender.

Sallie Mae’s Credentials

Unlike other student loan companies, Sallie Mae originates and services its own loans. Its loans are originated through Sallie Mae Bank, which is regulated by the Utah Department of Financial Institutions, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

Licenses and Registrations

Sallie Mae issues loans to borrowers in all 50 states.

Awards and Certifications

Sallie Mae is regularly selected as a top provider of private student loans. For example, Sallie Mae is on NerdWallet’s list of the 16 best lenders.

Third-Party Ratings

With Sallie Mae’s size, it’s unsurprising that it has received some negative attention. According to the CFPB’s complaint database, over 1,500 complaints were submitted over the past five years. Common complaints concerned struggling with payments, receiving incorrect information, and problems dealing with their loan servicer.

Regulatory Actions

Sallie Mae has a complicated history. Navient, formerly part of Sallie Mae before the company split in two in 2014, has been the target of lawsuits from the CFPB over how it handled borrowers in repayment. The Navient suit resulted in a $1.7 billion settlement.

Sallie Mae’s Accessibility

Sallie Mae has educational resources and calculators on its site, and customer support can be reached in several ways.

Availability

Sallie Mae’s customer support team can be reached via online chat or phone during its business hours.

Contact Information

Sallie Mae’s business hours for applicants are:

  • Chat: Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. EST

  • Phone: Monday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. EST; Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. EST; Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. EST

Contact customer support at 855-756-5626.

User Experience

Unlike other companies, Sallie Mae doesn’t use a third-party loan servicer; it services loans originated through its platform. Sallie Mae is who you should contact with questions about your account or repayment options.

For existing borrowers, customer support is available Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. EST. You can get assistance by calling 800-472-5543. Online agents are also available.

Limitations

Sallie Mae’s website can be difficult to navigate, and some pages are outdated. For example, there are still pages referencing parent student loans on Sallie Mae’s site, but the company discontinued its parent loan program in 2021.

Finding information about loan terms isn’t always easy, and requires some digging. And because there isn’t a prequalification option, you have to fill out an application and consent to a hard credit inquiry to view loan terms and rates.

Sallie Mae’s Customer Satisfaction

Despite its size, there are relatively few Sallie Mae student loan reviews on consumer sites like TrustPilot. However, the few reviews tend to be fairly negative.

Customer Complaints

On TrustPilot, Sallie Mae has a TrustScore of 1.8 out of five on TrustPilot.

Sallie Mae is accredited by the Better Business Bureau and has an A+ rating. However, consumer reviews gave Sallie Mae a 1.11 out of five rating.

Third-Party Ratings

Sallie Mae has not been rated by third-party consumer rating agencies.

Sallie Mae FAQ

What credit score do I need for a Sallie Mae loan?

Although Sallie Mae doesn't specify its credit score requirements, you generally need very good or excellent credit to qualify for a loan. According to the company's annual report, the average FICO credit score at approval for borrowers was 750 in 2021. With such a high average credit score, the majority of student loan applicants will need a cosigner to qualify for a loan.

Does Sallie Mae forgive student loans?

Sallie Mae loans aren't eligible for federal student loan forgiveness programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness. However, Sallie Mae does offer loan forgiveness if the borrower passes away or becomes totally and permanently disabled. For borrowers experiencing financial hardships, you may be eligible for forbearance or deferment programs to reduce or postpone your payments. Contact your loan servicer to discuss your options.

Can you refinance Sallie Mae loans?

Although Sallie Mae doesn't offer student loan refinancing, you can refinance existing Sallie Mae student loans with another lender.

How long do you have to pay back Sallie Mae student loans?

Your loan term is dependent on the type of loans you have and the amount you borrow. In general, loan terms range from 10 to 20 years.

How We Evaluated Sallie Mae

We compared Sallie Mae to 18 other leading student loan companies to see how it stacked up to the competition. We looked at lenders’ available loan options, repayment terms, loan amounts, customer service reviews and financial hardship policies. We particularly focused on in-school repayment options and financial hardship repayment plans.

Summary of Money’s Sallie Mae Review

Borrowers planning on attending career training or certificate programs often struggle to find lenders willing to work with them. But with Sallie Mae, you can borrow up to the total cost of attendance of your program. While most borrowers will need a cosigner, Sallie Mae has a remarkably short waiting period before you can apply for a cosigner release; you may be eligible in as little as 12 months after your full repayment begins.

Sallie Mae does have some drawbacks; notably, it doesn’t offer parent student loans, and borrowers typically need very good or excellent credit to qualify. If you are looking for a parent loan or don’t have a cosigner with excellent credit, check out our choices for the best student loans of 2022 to find other options.

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