The bottom line: Sallie Mae was originally founded in 1973 as a federally guaranteed student loan program. Today it makes private student loans, but it stopped servicing federal loans in 2014. Its private loan is best for part-time students and those who want flexibility with repayment.
Pros & Cons
One of the few lenders to provide loans to part-time students.
Borrowers can access online tutoring and free credit score tracking.
Non-U.S. citizens, including DACA students, can apply with a U.S. co-signer.
You can't see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
Compare to Other Lenders
Sallie Mae, originally founded in 1973 as a federally guaranteed student loan program, split into two powerhouse entities in 2014: Sallie Mae Bank, a consumer banking business, and Navient, the largest federal student loans servicer.
Sallie Mae’s private student loans are best for those who want to be rewarded for making payments while in school. For example, Sallie Mae offers lower interest rates to borrowers who make monthly $25 payments or interest-only payments while in school.
Sallie Mae at a glance
One of the few lenders to serve part-time students.
No personalized interest rate estimates until you apply.
Borrowers have the option of making interest-only payments for 12 months after finishing school.
How Sallie Mae could improve
Sallie Mae could improve by offering additional programs such as:
More than 12 months of forbearance.
Personalized rate estimates without affecting credit.
Biweekly student loan payments via autopay.
Sallie Mae private student loan details
Before applying for a Sallie Mae student loan
Before taking out a Sallie Mae student loan or any other private student loan, exhaust your federal loan options first. Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, to apply.
Compare your private student loan options to make sure you’re getting the best rate you qualify for. In addition to interest rates, look at lenders’ repayment alternatives and the flexibility they offer to borrowers who struggle to make payments.
If you aren’t eligible for a Sallie Mae student loan
If Sallie Mae denies your student loan application, the lender will let you know why. Depending on the reason, you may want to consider other lenders or, if you haven’t already, try applying with a co-signer.
Student loans ratings methodology
NerdWallet believes the best student loan is one you can repay at the lowest interest rate you can get. That’s why NerdWallet’s student loan ratings reward lenders that offer a variety of loan terms, limit their fees and penalties, and extend borrowers multiple options to avoid default. Points are also awarded for soft credit checks, underwriting transparency and other consumer-friendly features. Use these ratings as a guide, but we encourage you to shop around for the lowest interest rate you can qualify for. NerdWallet does not receive compensation for its reviews. Read our editorial guidelines.
on Sallie Mae's website
Frequently asked questions
Sallie Mae is a four-star lender based on NerdWallet's student loan rating system. Our ratings prioritize low interest rates and flexible repayment options that allow borrowers to repay loans faster and avoid default.
The average credit score of approved borrowers was 748 for undergraduate student loans.