Sallie Mae Student Loans Review

Sallie Mae offers competitive rates, but has limited loan options

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Sallie Mae

 Sallie Mae

Investopedia’s Rating
4.1

Our Take

Sallie Mae is a private lender offering undergraduate, graduate, and professional student loans. While its loan rates are competitive, it doesn’t offer parent or spousal loans, or student loans for ​​Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. If you’re interested in those options, you’ll need to look for another lender.

  • Pros and Cons
  • Key Takeaways
  • Company Overview
Pros and Cons
Pros
  • Pre-qualification available

  • Offers multiple discounts

  • Forbearance available in certain cases

Cons
  • No refinancing option available

  • Limited repayment terms

  • Charges late and returned payment fees

Key Takeaways
  • The Student Loan Marketing Association, commonly known as SLMA or Sallie Mae, was established in 1972 by the U.S. government.
  • It began as a secondary market for federal student loans.  
  • It became a private student loan lender in December 2004.
  • Sallie Mae doesn’t charge origination or application fees.
  • The maximum amount you can borrow in a year is $89,900.
Company Overview

The U.S. government started the Student Loan Marketing Association, or Sallie Mae, in 1972, and it was established as a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE)—a special type of company that abided by specific government regulations. It served as a secondary market for federal student loans, with the goal of making these loans more accessible to borrowers.

Congress began converting Sallie Mae to a private company in 1996, a process that was completed in 2004. The company split into two entities in 2014: Navient, which services federal student loans; and Sallie Mae, a private student loan lender. Today, Sallie Mae offers undergraduate, graduate, and professional student loans, including loans for medical, law, and dental school. 

While Sallie Mae has several loan options for U.S.-based and international students, it doesn’t offer parent or spousal loans, or loans for DACA recipients. The company also has a controversial history. In 2014, Sallie Mae agreed to pay $60 million to compensate military members for violating Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protections, and in 2022, Navient agreed to pay $95 million in restitution and cancel $1.7 billion in loans for predatory lending and violating consumer protection laws.

  • Year Founded 1973
  • Official Website www.salliemae.com
  • Loans Offered Undergraduate, graduate, professional
  • Customer Service Live chat. Phone: (855) 756-5626

Sallie Mae Student Loans: Quick Look

Loan Type Variable APR  Fixed APR 
Undergraduate loan 5.37%–15.70% 4.50%–14.83%
Graduate loan  5.87%–15.47%  5.25%–14.48% 
Law school loan  5.87%–15.46%  5.25%–14.47% 
MBA school loan  5.87%–15.47%  5.25%–14.48% 
Medical school loan  5.87%–15.45%  5.25%–14.46% 
Dental school loan  5.87%–15.46%  5.25%–14.47% 
Technical school loan  5.37%–15.89%  4.50%–15.10% 

Sallie Mae doesn’t disclose its credit score requirements for loans, and you might need a co-signer to qualify. If you don’t have someone to co-sign your loan, check out our roundup of the best student loans without a co-signer

Pros Explained

  • Pre-qualification available: Sallie Mae indicates it offers a pre-qualification option for those shopping around for private student loans. 
  • Offers multiple discounts: Multiple discounts are available, including a 0.25% automatic payment discount and a 0.50% discount for making payments on graduate student loans while in school. 
  • Forbearance available in certain cases: Sallie Mae also indicates that forbearance may be available in certain cases, though it doesn’t offer specific information about qualifying criteria or how to get forbearance. Speak with the lender if you need to pause payments due to financial hardship.

Cons Explained

  • No refinancing option available: Certain lenders offer student loan refinancing, but Sallie Mae does not. 
  • Limited repayment terms: Sallie Mae only offers repayment terms of 120 to 180 months. Many other lenders provide more flexibility. 
  • Charges late and returned payment fees: If you pay late, Sallie Mae will charge you a fee of up to $25. It also charges a $20 returned payment fee. 

Student Loans Offered by Sallie Mae

Undergraduate Student Loans

If you need additional financing beyond what federal loans provide, Sallie Mae could be a good option for undergraduate loans. It offers competitive rates; repayment terms of 10, 12, or 15 years; and no origination or application fees or prepayment penalties. However, as mentioned, borrowers may pay late fees or returned payment fees. 

Terms for Undergraduate Student Loans
Variable APR 5.37%–15.70%
Fixed APR  4.50%–14.83% 
Loan amounts  $1,000–$89,999 per year 
Loan terms  120–180 months 

Graduate Student Loans

Sallie Mae also offers graduate student loans for international and U.S.-based students interested in furthering their education. Like its undergraduate loans, its grad student loans have no origination, application, or prepayment fees.

Terms for Graduate Student Loans
Variable APR 5.87%–15.47%
Fixed APR  5.25%–14.48% 
Loan amounts  $1,000–$89,999 per year 
Loan terms  120–180 months 

Law School Loans

Those attending law school may be able to get a loan from Sallie Mae to pay for the cost of attendance. You won’t pay an origination fee with a law school loan from Sallie Mae, though the lender doesn’t provide information on loan amounts or terms.

Terms for Law School Loans
Variable APR 5.87%–15.46%
Fixed APR  5.25%–14.47% 
Loan amounts  Not disclosed 
Loan terms  Not disclosed 

MBA Loans

If you decide to pursue your MBA, a loan from Sallie Mae could help offset the cost of tuition and fees. Loan ranges and repayment terms aren’t disclosed.

Terms for MBA Loans
Variable APR 5.87%–15.46%
Fixed APR  5.25%–14.48% 
Loan amounts  Not disclosed 
Loan terms  Not disclosed 

Medical School Loans

Medical school can be very costly, and Sallie Mae offers loans to help cover your tuition and fees. While its medical school loans have fairly competitive rates, loan amounts and terms aren’t mentioned on Sallie Mae’s site. 

Terms for Medical School Loans
Variable APR 5.87%–15.45%
Fixed APR  5.25%–14.46% 
Loan amounts  Not disclosed 
Loan terms  Not disclosed 

Dental School Loans

Those seeking financial aid to pay for dental school could get a loan from Sallie Mae. Similar to medical school loans, Sallie Mae doesn’t offer insight into loan amounts or terms for dental school loans on its website. 

Terms for Dental School Loans
Variable APR 5.87%–15.46%
Fixed APR  5.25%–14.47% 
Loan amounts  Not disclosed 
Loan terms  Not disclosed 

Technical School Loans

In addition to its undergraduate, graduate, and professional loans, Sallie Mae also provides technical school loans with even more competitive rates (as of publication). These loans can help offset the cost of technical or trade school. 

Terms for Technical School Loans
Variable APR 5.37%–15.89%
Fixed APR  4.50%–15.10% 
Loan amounts  Not disclosed 
Loan terms  Not disclosed 

Loan Eligibility and Approval

Sallie Mae offers loans for U.S. students in all 50 states and international students. However, parent, spousal, and DACA recipient loans aren’t available through this lender. Sallie Mae indicates it allows borrowers to pre-qualify for loans, but it doesn’t provide clarification on the process for pre-qualifying.

Sallie Mae doesn’t explicitly mention that you’ll need someone to co-sign your loan, but this lender also doesn’t disclose its minimum credit score requirements. If your credit score isn’t great, you may need to apply for a loan with a co-signer to get approved. A co-signer can be someone you trust with a strong credit profile. 

Once you apply, approval decisions may be made within just 15 minutes. If you’re approved, Sallie Mae requires that your school verify your total loan amount (which can take some time, depending on the school). Once that’s all set and you accept the final loan disclosure, the funds can be disbursed directly to your school. 

Loan Fees and Repayment Options

Loan Fees

  • Origination/administrative fee: None
  • Late fee: Up to $25
  • Returned payment fee: $20
  • Forbearance fee: Not disclosed
  • Deferment fee: Not disclosed

Loan Discounts

  • Autopay: Borrowers receive a 0.25% rate discount on their undergraduate loans for setting up autopay.
  • Graduate student payment: If you start repaying your Sallie Mae grad school loan while you’re still in school, you could get a rate discount of up to 0.50%.

Repayment Options

Different loans from Sallie Mae may have different repayment options, so that’s important to be aware of if you’re shopping around for a graduate or specialty loan. However, this lender specifies that its undergraduate borrowers can access three repayment options (aside from full repayment):

  • Deferred repayment: Undergraduates make no payments in school and during the six-month grace period after graduation. However, interest accrues during school and the grace period, and it will be added to your loan principal balance at the end of that period. 
  • Fixed repayment: Make $25 payments each month while you’re in school and during the six-month grace period. Any interest that’s unpaid will be added to your loan principal balance. This option results in lower overall loan costs than the deferred repayment option.
  • Interest-only repayment: Make interest-only payments each month while in school and during the six-month grace period. Sallie Mae indicates that this option can lower your overall loan cost by the largest amount (aside from full repayment). 

Loan Forbearance and Discharge Options

Sallie Mae indicates that loan forbearance is available in certain circumstances, but it doesn’t specify what those circumstances are. Its website mentions that it’s committed to working with borrowers struggling to make payments, though. If you’re faced with this situation, consider speaking with a Sallie Mae representative to discuss your options. 

This lender may discharge your loan balance if you die or become permanently and totally disabled. Loan discharge fees aren’t specified, though, so if you have questions, it’s best to contact a Sallie Mae representative directly. 

Is Student Loan Refinancing Available?

Student loan refinancing is not available with Sallie Mae. If you’re interested in this option, you’ll need to look for another private lender that offers refinancing loans.

If your credit has improved since you originally took out student loans, refinancing could save you quite a bit of money over the long term. See our picks for the best student loan refinance companies to see the kind of rates you might get.

Customer Service

Sallie Mae offers a convenient live chat feature on its website, and prospective and existing borrowers can also connect with a representative over the phone during certain hours.

Live Chat

  • Hours: Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time

Phone (New Loans)

  • Call: (855) 756-5626
  • Hours: Monday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET; Friday:,8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET

Phone (Existing Loans)

  • Call: (800) 472-5543 or (877) 416-0012 for international students
  • Hours: Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET

Applying for a Sallie Mae Student Loan 

To apply online for a student loan with Sallie Mae, you’ll need to share the following information and more:

  • Basic personal information: Your name, address, and Social Security number
  • Financial information: Gross income, bank account balances, rent or mortgage payments, and total loan amount you’re seeking
  • Student aid information: Expected financial aid (federal or private) and scholarships
  • School information: The school you plan to attend, degree path, and year in school. 

If you’re planning to take out student loans, be sure to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) first and exhaust your options for federal aid. Federal loans typically offer better rates than private loans, and they may come with additional benefits like student loan forgiveness.

Alternative Choices

   Sallie Mae Citizens Bank  Education Loan Finance (ELFI) 
Loan types offered  Undergraduate; graduate; medical; technical; bootcamp Undergraduate; graduate; parent; professional; medical; bar study Undergraduate; graduate; parent
Undergraduate fixed APR  4.50%–14.83%  4.99%–13.47%  3.21%–18.00% 
Undergraduate variable APR  5.37%–15.70%  4.59%–13.47%  2.69%–18.00% 
Origination/administrative fee None  None  None 
Repayment options  Deferment; fixed; interest-only; full payment  Deferment; interest-only; full payment  Deferment; fixed; interest-only; full payment 
Refinancing available  No  Yes  Yes 

Final Verdict

Sallie Mae offers competitive rates on undergraduate, graduate, and professional loans. However, its repayment terms are fairly limited compared to some competitors, and the company has experienced its share of controversy in the past. Despite this, a private student loan from Sallie Mae could still be worth considering if its loan options, rates, and terms meet your needs. 

Sallie Mae has some excellent loan options, but you should always get a few rate quotes before making a decision. See what else is out there with our picks for the best student loans.

Methodology

Investopedia is dedicated to providing consumers with unbiased, comprehensive reviews of student loan lenders. We collected thousands of data points across 30 lenders—including loan types, interest rates, fees, loan amounts, and repayment terms—to ensure that we help readers make the right borrowing decision for their education needs.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. U.S. Department of the Treasury. "Treasury Announces Successful Privatization of Sallie Mae." 

  2. Navient Multi-State Settlement. "39 State Attorneys General Announce $1.85 Billion Settlement with Student Loan Servicer Navient."

  3. The United States Department of Justice. "Justice Department Reaches $60 Million Settlement with Sallie Mae to Resolve Allegations of Charging Military Servicemembers Excessive Rates on Student Loans." 

  4. Sallie Mae. "Sallie Mae Graduate Student Loans." 

  5. Sallie Mae. "Smart Option Loan Terms & Conditions." 

  6. Sallie Mae. "Sallie Mae Graduate Loan Terms & Conditions." 

  7. Sallie Mae. "Sallie Mae Law School Loan Terms & Conditions." 

  8. Sallie Mae. "Sallie Mae MBA Loan Terms & Conditions." 

  9. Sallie Mae. "Private Student Loans." 

  10. Sallie Mae. "Sallie Mae Undergraduate Loans." 

  11. Sallie Mae. "Choose a Type of Interest Rate and Repayment Option." 

  12. Sallie Mae. "Life Changes." 

  13. Sallie Mae. "What to Expect During the Student Loan Application Process."