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.
- Loans available for career training, bar exam and medical residency
- Cosigner releases available after one year
- Multiple in-school repayment options
- 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 |
|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 |
|Variable: 3.12% to 12.80% |
Fixed: 4.25% to 12.92%
|MBA||$1,000 to total cost of attendance||15 years||Immediate |
|Variable: 3.12% to 12.73% |
Fixed: 4.25% to 12.85%
|Law School||$1,000 to total cost of attendance||15 years||Immediate |
|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 |
|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 |
|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.
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.
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.
Sallie Mae’s customer support team can be reached via online chat or phone during its business hours.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Does Sallie Mae forgive student loans?
Can you refinance Sallie Mae loans?
How long do you have to pay back Sallie Mae student loans?
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.