College & EducationReviews

Sallie Mae Student Loan Review – Are Private Loans The Smart Option?

Sallie Mae’s non-public pupil loan is its flagship credit score product. Depending on the loan sort, it’s identified both as a Smart Option Student Loan (undergraduate, career coaching) or just as a Sallie Mae pupil loan (graduate {and professional} research).

Sallie Mae pupil loans have versatile compensation phrases and provide theoretically uncapped borrowing capacity — in contrast to federal pupil loans. However, they’ve some drawbacks, together with the potential for price uncertainty on variable-rate loans and a few limitations for career coaching loan debtors.

Before making use of for a personal loan with Sallie Mae, make sure you totally perceive your chosen product’s charges, phrases, and doable downsides.

Types of Sallie Mae Student Loans

Depending in your career monitor and objectives, Sallie Mae affords three sorts of pupil loans, every of which has a barely completely different mixture of options. Notably, none have origination charges, and all can build credit score for college students and graduates getting ready to enter the workforce.

All Sallie Mae training loans can be found to U.S. residents and everlasting residents in addition to eligible non-U.S. residents with a citizen or everlasting resident co-signer. Borrowers could attend eligible diploma or coaching applications full-time, half-time, or lower than half-time. Borrowers can apply for co-signer launch after making 12 on-time principal and curiosity funds following commencement.

Sallie Mae affords separate training financing choices for folks: parent loans to finance greater training bills and K-12 loans to finance non-public main and secondary faculty training. These loans aren’t issued in college students’ names and don’t build credit score for college students whose training they finance.

Undergraduate Student Loans

The Smart Option Student Loan caters to undergraduate college students at degree-granting establishments, together with two-year and four-year schools and universities. No matter how a lot training funding they want, all debtors get pleasure from 4 months of free research assist from Chegg — a $100 worth.

The Smart Option Student Loan lets you borrow the full quantity of your attendance prices. That typically contains direct bills, similar to tuition, exercise charges, and room and board. It additionally contains oblique bills like transportation to and from faculty, faculty provides, and pertinent electronics. But for those who receive any extra monetary assist via your faculty or one other lender, Sallie Mae subtracts that quantity out of your loan.

Note that you just don’t robotically obtain the full quantity you request. Based in your FICO credit score rating and monetary profile, Sallie Mae reserves the proper to disburse lower than the full quantity of your tuition. However, in contrast to many competing loans, there are not any annual or lifetime borrowing limits on any pupil loan.

To obtain this loan, you have to have no less than $1,000 of excellent attendance prices that aren’t being coated by one other financing supply, similar to your faculty’s monetary assist program or federal pupil loans. Your Smart Option Student Loan comes with a compensation time period of wherever from 5 to fifteen years, which you select at the time of your loan’s disbursement. You can’t change this time period until you refinance your loan.

There are not any origination charges, and as with all instructional loans in the U.S., there are not any prepayment penalties.

You can select from a hard and fast or variable curiosity rate. Current fastened rates of interest vary from 4.25% annual share rate, or APR, to 12.59% APR, relying in your credit score rating and credit score historical past, your loan compensation possibility, and whether or not you’re utilizing a co-signer. According to Sallie Mae, rates of interest on co-signed loans could fall on the decrease finish of the APR scale, and approval is way extra doubtless with a creditworthy co-signer.

Meanwhile, variable rates of interest on Smart Option Student Loans at present vary between 1.13% APR to 11.25% APR. Sallie Mae calculates these charges by including a hard and fast share to the one-month Libor (London Interbank Offered Rate), a measure of the curiosity rate at which worldwide banks lend to one another. However, its precise stage relies on every borrower’s creditworthiness, compensation alternative, and co-signing standing.

Overall, fluctuations in the one-month Libor imply variable loan charges could rise or fall month-to-month at any level after Sallie Mae points the loan. There’s no restrict to the quantity they will improve in a given month or year, however particular person states could impose caps on these charges.

When you choose into autopay, you qualify for an automated 0.25% APR rate discount contingent upon profitable automated funds. If you miss even one auto debit because of inadequate funds (leading to a failed withdrawal), Sallie Mae reserves the proper to reinstitute the greater rate.

By comparability, sponsored direct federal loans for undergraduates, which pay not more than $5,500 per year and $23,000 in the combination, function fastened rates of interest of two.75% for the 2020 – ‘21 academic year (subject to change).

Unsubsidized direct federal loans, which allow dependents to borrow up to $7,500 per year and nondependents to borrow up to $12,500 per year, also carry fixed interest rates of 2.75% (also subject to change).

Borrowers whose parents (or who themselves) earn too much to qualify for subsidized direct federal loans often use unsubsidized federal loans to cover the first several thousand dollars of their attendance costs and rely on private loans from lenders like Sallie Mae to make up the difference.

The Smart Option Student Loan comes with three repayment options:

  • Interest Repayment Option. This option is the most cost-effective on a long-term basis. You begin making interest payments on your loan while you’re nonetheless at school. For instance, on a $15,000 loan with a 5% curiosity rate, you’d pay about $63 in curiosity every month whereas enrolled. Sallie Mae says this selection saves debtors a median of 20% relative to the deferred compensation possibility.
  • Fixed Repayment Option. This possibility additionally requires you to begin paying off your loans throughout faculty. You make a hard and fast month-to-month fee of $25 earlier than you graduate. Sallie Mae says the fastened compensation possibility affords a median financial savings of about 10% over the lifetime of the loan in comparison with the deferred compensation possibility. If your loan comes with a variable curiosity rate, rising charges may lead to an extended compensation window.
  • Deferred Repayment Option. Deferred compensation is the most versatile (however doubtlessly pricey) of those decisions. It permits (with out requiring) you to defer your loan repayments till six months after you graduate from faculty. This deferment interval is named a separation interval (additionally referred to as a grace interval). Your loans nonetheless accumulate curiosity when you’re at school and through the six-month separation interval following commencement. It gives flexibility, however the trade-off is a better curiosity rate than loans disbursed beneath the curiosity compensation possibility. According to Sallie Mae, the distinction quantities to about 1% for each variable and stuck rates of interest.

For all choices, it’s necessary to notice that your month-to-month fee rises considerably after commencement. If you choose a hard and fast curiosity rate in your loan, the the rest of your stability can be amortized over the remainder of the loan’s time period primarily based on the curiosity rate at which the loan was issued. In different phrases, as soon as your new fee is established after you graduate, it gained’t change. If you chose a variable rate as an alternative, your month-to-month fee quantities will differ.

Sallie Mae Student Loan for Graduate School Students

Sallie Mae additionally affords a personal pupil loan product for graduate and professional students, together with regulation faculty, dental faculty, medical faculty, and MBA college students. Sallie Mae additionally affords distinct loans for medical and dental college students getting into their residency years in addition to for regulation school-bound college students who want to organize for the bar examination beneath the graduate pupil loan umbrella.

Sallie Mae touts its graduate pupil loan as a superior various to the widespread PLUS loan for graduates — a federal pupil loan disbursed by the Department of Education — primarily as a result of it typically comes with a greater rate and extra versatile compensation phrases.

Like the Smart Option Student Loan, Sallie Mae affords fixed-rate and variable-rate variations. The graduate loan’s minimal disbursement quantity can also be $1,000. The most is the full school-certified price of attendance.

Sallie Mae’s graduate pupil loan charges differ by product (that’s, the MBA loan and medical faculty loan can have completely different charges). But they’re corresponding to undergraduate loan charges and tied to the one-month Libor. For every borrower, precise charges differ in accordance with creditworthiness, compensation association, and co-signer standing. There’s no disbursement charge, and loan phrases sometimes vary from 5 to fifteen years.

Like the Smart Option Student Loan, Sallie Mae’s graduate car affords deferred, curiosity, and stuck compensation choices that adhere to the similar primary parameters. As with all different pupil loans, there’s by no means a prepayment penalty related to the loan. Borrowers can get the similar 0.25% curiosity rate discount deal for loans paid by auto debit.

Career Training Smart Option Student Loan

Sallie Mae’s Career Training Smart Option Student Loan is for college students who attend vocational, certificates, or career-training applications at group schools, workforce coaching facilities, and specialised academies. Such applications would possibly embrace automotive restore programs, youngster growth certification applications, culinary arts coaching, entry-level well being care coaching, and contracting or commerce jobs.

Like Sallie Mae’s different two main sorts of pupil loans, this loan lets you borrow as much as 100% of your complete attendance prices, much less any extra monetary assist, offered you require no less than $1,000 in help. It additionally comes with a compensation window of 5 to fifteen years. Unlike the different two, you’ll be able to solely repay it utilizing the curiosity compensation or fastened compensation choices.

Sallie Mae’s career coaching loan is out there with a variable or fastened curiosity rate, each of which vary about 1 to three share factors greater than charges on Sallie Mae undergraduate and graduate pupil loans. It includes a 0.25% curiosity rate low cost for debtors who pay their loans with automated debit.

But the lack of a deferred compensation possibility can improve the monetary burden for debtors who haven’t but graduated.


Sallie Mae’s non-public pupil loans are unusually versatile and fairly priced, making them enticing to varied pupil debtors.

1. Theoretically Uncapped Borrowing Ability

Unlike direct federal loans, all three of Sallie Mae’s pupil loan merchandise provide uncapped borrowing capacity as much as the full price of attendance, much less any monetary assist obtained. In idea, you possibly can pay for the entirety of your undergraduate, graduate, or vocational training with these loans.

Sallie Mae independently confirms your price of attendance — a determine that features your tuition, room and board, and exercise charges. And the company reserves the proper to award lower than 100% of that quantity. But the indisputable fact that the company doesn’t cap its disbursements offers its loans a bonus over its Department of Education counterparts, which have annual and combination borrowing limits for sponsored and unsubsidized loans to undergraduate and most graduate college students.

2. Flexible Repayment Options

Sallie Mae affords three compensation choices on its graduate and undergraduate loans: curiosity, deferred, and stuck. It affords two compensation choices on its career coaching loans: curiosity and stuck. Some non-public pupil lenders, similar to PNC Bank, provide the same vary of decisions. Others, similar to Wells Fargo, solely provide deferred compensation.

Sallie Mae’s web site does a superb job of explaining its compensation choices in easy-to-understand phrases. By distinction, Wells Fargo’s web site buries the rationalization of its deferred compensation plan in a fine-print footnote.

3. No Disbursement Fees

Sallie Mae pupil loans don’t have disbursement (or origination) charges, that are charges added to the loan’s principal however deducted from the disbursement to cut back the internet quantity the borrower receives. Their omission reduces Sallie Mae pupil loans’ internet price to debtors.

Some non-public pupil loan lenders do cost disbursement charges, which they sometimes roll into the principal and use in curiosity cost calculations.

4. Autopay Discount for Most Borrowers

All three Sallie Mae pupil loan merchandise provide a 0.25% curiosity rate low cost for debtors who make their loan funds by way of automated debit and keep adequate funds to clear these debits. The 0.25% low cost stays in power for the whole lifetime of the loan, although Sallie Mae reserves the proper to droop this perk throughout forbearance (a short lived postponement of the borrower’s obligation to repay because of sickness, sudden monetary hardship, or navy service).

You can join the 0.25% low cost at any level after taking out your loan, however remember that it doesn’t apply to funds that arrive late (or that you just miss utterly) because of inadequate funds. If you reinstate your automated debit association with a completely funded checking account after a missed or late fee, you turn into eligible for the low cost once more.


Sallie Mae’s pupil loans can create added price and uncertainty for debtors, with the career coaching loan a very weak possibility for debtors in search of aggressive pricing and most compensation flexibility.

1. Higher Interest Rates on the Career Training Loan

While rates of interest on the graduate and undergraduate variations of Sallie Mae’s pupil loan evaluate favorably to these on related loans from different main non-public lenders and the Department of Education, the career coaching model doesn’t fare so properly.

Its present curiosity rate vary exceeds that of the functionally equivalent Wells Fargo Student Loan for Career and Community Colleges by 2% to three%. But the lack of an origination charge makes up a few of the distinction. If you want a loan for vocational coaching, it could be finest to look elsewhere.

2. For Long-Term Savings, You Need to Pay More Upfront

While Sallie Mae advertises financial savings of as much as 10% relative to its deferred compensation possibility with its fastened compensation plan and as much as 20% with its curiosity compensation plan, there’s some ache related to this perk.

You should pay extra upfront than you’ll with a deferred plan: $25 per thirty days till the finish of your separation interval for fastened compensation plans and an excellent greater quantity for curiosity compensation plans. If you’re strapped for money whereas at school, that’s simpler stated than carried out. So despite the fact that Sallie Mae makes no secret it’s in debtors’ curiosity to go for fastened or curiosity repayments, it’s not sensible for everybody.

Instead of borrowing as a lot as you presumably can with a personal pupil loan from Sallie Mae, it makes extra sense to leverage the federal Stafford loan program for all it’s price. Regardless of borrower creditworthiness, unsubsidized direct federal loans include fastened rates of interest a lot decrease than the charges for which most Sallie Mae debtors qualify.

So you’ll be able to cut back the complete price of your school training by taking out the most unsubsidized direct federal loan quantity for every year you’re at school. Once you’ve used up your direct loan eligibility for the year, you need to use a Sallie Mae pupil loan to cover the distinction.

3. Variable Interest Rates Create Some Uncertainty for Borrowers

On the world markets, rates of interest fluctuate continually. Monthly rates of interest on Sallie Mae pupil loans with variable curiosity — which many debtors select to reap the benefits of low beginning charges — are tied to the one-month Libor. That means their charges can change as a lot as as soon as per thirty days. In financial environments the place rates of interest rise persistently, they will go up as typically as 12 instances per year.

4. No Deferred Repayment Option for Career Training Loan

The deferred compensation possibility on the graduate and undergraduate variations of Sallie Mae’s pupil loan product offers cash-strapped college students the choice to make no loan funds till six months after graduating from faculty. That association will increase the complete loan price by permitting unpaid curiosity to accrue for the years that the borrower stays at school. But many debtors respect the flexibility it gives.

However, there’s no such possibility for career-track college students who take out a career coaching loan with Sallie Mae. If you utilize a Sallie Mae pupil loan to pay for a vocational certificates, you have to select both the fastened or curiosity compensation possibility. Both require you to make some funds when you’re at school, doubtlessly decreasing the quantity you must spend on housing, faculty provides, meals, and leisure.

Final Word

Sallie Mae constructed its repute as a pupil lender, and it continues to service thousands and thousands of loans for college students of all ages. With three varieties that serve undergraduates, graduate college students, and career coaching college students, the company’s non-public pupil loan is the most seen and widespread providing in its loan portfolio.

All three sorts of Sallie Mae’s pupil loans let you borrow as much as 100% of your complete tuition and improve your monetary flexibility by selecting from two or three compensation applications. They additionally provide invaluable perks like curiosity rate reductions if you choose into autopay.

But it’s price noting that Sallie Mae’s compensation phrases are shorter than these of the federal PLUS loans. And for those who’re trying to receive a career-specific vocational certificates in preparation for a future-focused career, you must also remember that its career coaching pupil loan forces you to just accept a variable curiosity rate and carries typically constrained compensation phrases.

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