What Is Sallie Mae?

Your Must-Know Guide to This Student Loan Giant

sallie mae
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 Courtesy of Sallie Mae

Sallie Mae is a major player in the education industry—and has been for decades. Originally founded in 1972 by an act of U.S. Congress, the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) was created as a “government-sponsored enterprise.” It was a private, for-profit corporation that had to follow specific regulations from the government and was exempt from state and local taxes. 

As a student lender, Sallie Mae has changed and reorganized over the years and has expanded its products to offer more than just Sallie Mae student loans, such as savings accounts, credit cards, and personal loans.

Here’s how this company has evolved into a private company, and how it works with college students and borrowers today.

What Is Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae is a publicly-traded company that is a major provider of private student loans in the U.S. As of October 2019, Sallie Mae held $22.9 billion in private student loans. At that time it also held another $868 million in federal student loans issued through the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program.

The Sallie Mae of today is very different from the original Sallie Mae. In 1972, the Student Loan Marketing Association, also called SLMA or Sallie Mae, was created by Congress as a public entity. But in 1983, SLMA became a publicly owned company, listed on the New York Stock Exchange. In 1996 Congress initiated a process to convert SLMA into a private company, officially named SLM Corporation and commonly known as Sallie Mae. By 2005, Sallie Mae was a private-sector corporation.

Sallie Mae Student Loans

In 2014, Sallie Mae split into two separate companies, Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient became a servicer for private, FFEL, and other federal student loans previously held by Sallie Mae, and newly originated federal student loans, as allocated to it by the U.S. Department of Education.

Sallie Mae continues to originate and manage private student loans and other bank products and does not offer or service federal student loans (outside of the outstanding FFEL loans it still owns). 

As a private lender, Sallie Mae offers a wider variety of borrowing options than students could get through federal student loans. Sallie Mae’s educational loans include:

  • Undergraduate and graduate school loans
  • Parent student loans
  • Loans for law school, and medical or dental school or residencies
  • Loans for private K-12 schooling 

Private student loans, such as those that Sallie Mae offers, can be another way to borrow for students who aren’t eligible for federal student aid or loans. For example, students who don’t qualify for federal loans due to less than half-time enrollment status would be considered by Sallie Mae.

PLUS Loans have higher student loan rates and fees than other federal student loans. For some parents and students considering PLUS Loans, private student loans can be a way to lower borrowing costs—if you qualify for low rates.

Sallie Mae private fixed and variable-rate student loans don’t charge student loan origination fees, and in-school deferments are available, along with interest-only payment plans, and other repayment plan options.

Sallie Mae does not currently offer student loan consolidation or refinancing.

Accounts, Personal Loans, and Credit Cards

In addition to its student loan offerings, Sallie Mae also provides other products. Online savings options include “SmartyPig,” a free online savings account, high-yield savings accounts, money market accounts, and certificates of deposit (CDs).

Sallie Mae’s personal loans provide funding that can be used for almost anything, such as debt consolidation or paying for major expenses and events. These personal loans may have interest rates that may be lower than what many borrowers might pay on a credit card (depending on your credit history), which could make them an alternative to high-interest rate credit cards. 

In the summer of 2019, Sallie Mae offered three new credit cards. The Sallie Mae Ignite Card is designed for college students looking to build credit, the Sallie Mae Accelerate Card offers a 25% bonus when cash-back rewards are put towards paying down student loans, and the Sallie Mae Evolve credit card offers a 25% bonus on rewards that you earn in your two top spending categories each month.

How to Contact Sallie Mae

The best way to learn more about Sallie Mae student loans is to visit its website

Sallie Mae’s customer service team offers assistance and answers questions about its products. You can reach the team by visiting Sallie Mae’s contact page and finding the specific phone number or mailing address that corresponds to your question. 

You can also call Sallie Mae at 855-756-5626 (855-SLM-LOAN) if you’re interested in new student loans, or 800-472-5543 (800-4-SALLIE) if you’re an existing borrower.

Article Sources

  1. U.S. Department of the Treasury. "Lessons Learned From The Privatization of Sallie Mae," Accessed Dec. 9, 2019.

  2. Sallie Mae. "Sallie Mae Reports Third-Quarter 2019 Financial Results," Accessed Dec. 9, 2019.

  3. U.S. Department of Education. "Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program," Accessed Dec. 9, 2019.

  4. Navient. "Sallie Mae Board Approves Strategic Separation of Navient Corporation, Sets Record Date and Distribution Date," Accessed Dec. 9, 2019.

  5. Sallie Mae. "Private Student Loans for Every Type of Student," Accessed Dec. 9, 2019.

  6. Sallie Mae. "Student Loans," Accessed Dec. 9, 2019.

  7. Sallie Mae. "Deferring Payments for School or Internship," Accessed Dec. 9, 2019.

  8. Sallie Mae. "Savings Products," Accessed Dec. 9, 2019.

  9. Sallie Mae. "‘Hey Sallie, is That You?’ Sallie Mae Introduces New Brand and Unveils the Next Chapter for the Company," Accessed Dec. 9, 2019.

  10. Sallie Mae. "Accelerate," and "Evolve," Accessed Dec. 9, 2019.

  11. Sallie Mae. "Contact Us," Accessed Dec. 9, 2019.