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College Ave vs. Sallie Mae student loans

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College Ave and Sallie Mae are two popular companies that offer a wide range of private student loans. Both companies have loans tailored to a variety of disciplines, from undergraduate study to medical school and law school. College Ave offers a range of repayment options, as well as some of the lowest starting rates in the business. Sallie Mae, on the other hand, boasts plenty of online resources for current and future college students.

The right choice for you comes down to your priorities when it comes to student loans, as well as which lender offers you the best rates. It’s always a good idea to get quotes from several companies before making your decision.

Loan Student
Key takeaway
College Ave is better if you’re looking for customizable repayment, while Sallie Mae is a good option for students taking only a few classes at a time or those who want access to additional resources.

Sallie Mae vs. College Ave

Sallie Mae College Ave
Interest rates 2% to 12.35% variable, 3.75% to 13.72% fixed (with autopay) 0.94% to 12.99% variable, 3.39% to 13.95% fixed (with autopay)
Repayment terms 10 to 20 years 5 to 20 years
Loan amounts $1,000 to full cost of attendance $1,000 to full cost of attendance ($150,000 maximum for some degrees)
Benefits  Scholarship search tool; four months of free access to a Chegg study pack; loans for students studying less than half time Extended deferment during fellowship or residency; four in-school repayment options; low minimum APRs
Drawbacks Poor customer reviews; high rate caps; few repayment term options Poor customer reviews; $150,000 loan limit for some graduate degrees; few eligibility requirements disclosed

Details accurate as of July 12, 2022

Sallie Mae student loans: Pros and cons

Sallie Mae is one of the most-recognized names in the student loans world. Even so, there are pros and cons about the company that are worth considering before signing up.

Pros

  • Options for part-time students: Many student loan lenders require students to be enrolled at least half time, but Sallie Mae widens the pool to include students who are enrolled less than half time, taking professional certification courses or studying abroad.
  • Online resources: Sallie Mae’s website includes scholarship directories, financial planning advice and calculators. Other lenders — including College Ave — offer some assistance on their websites, but Sallie Mae’s is a step above the rest.
  • Long deferment and grace periods: Most of Sallie Mae’s graduate school loans come with generous deferment options after you graduate. With its law school loans, for instance, students can benefit from a nine-month grace period, 12 interest-only payments after the grace period and 48 months of deferment during a clerkship.

Cons

  • Bad customer feedback: Sallie Mae has poor customer reviews on both the Better Business Bureau and Trustpilot, so it’s clear that some customers have had negative experiences with the lender.
  • Several fees: While you can avoid many fees by making timely payments on your Sallie Mae loan, being late on a payment will cost you 5 percent or $25, and a returned check will cost you $20.
  • Limited repayment term options: Undergraduate students have repayment terms of only 10 to 15 years, and graduate students have only one repayment term option. For medical school and dental school the term is 20 years, and for business school, law school and general graduate school the term is 15 years. This is much less flexibility than what other lenders offer.

College Ave student loans: Pros and cons

College Ave’s loans are fairly customizable, though there are some downsides — particularly for graduate students.

Pros

  • Four in-school repayment options: Students with a College Ave loan can choose from one of four repayment options while in school: full principal and interest payments, interest-only payments, flat $25 payments or fully deferred payments. This range of options can help students avoid interest capitalization and pay off their loans faster.
  • Wide range of repayment terms: Undergraduate students can choose among four repayment terms, while some graduate students can choose among five. This allows students to customize their loan repayment and find a monthly payment that works for them.
  • Quick application: College Ave says that its initial loan application takes only three minutes. The prequalification form is intuitive, automatically pulling the cost of attendance at your school and providing estimated budgets for things like books and supplies.

Cons

  • Unhappy past customers: College Ave has poor reviews from customers on the Better Bureau and Trustpilot, indicating that borrowers have run into issues with the company’s management of their loans.
  • Does not disclose eligibility requirements: While student loan companies are often reluctant to share all of the details about their eligibility requirements, College Ave is uncommonly guarded about who qualifies for its student loans.
  • Loan limits for some graduate degrees: Many student loan lenders allow students to borrow up to the full cost of attendance at their school. However, College Ave sets a $150,000 limit on loans for dental school, law school, medical school and business school.

Which is better: Sallie Mae or College Ave?

Sallie Mae and College Ave share some common characteristics: the same minimum loan amount, similar interest rates and fairly generous grace periods. Both are worthwhile options, though your decision could come down to the features you find most important.

If you’re looking for flexibility with your student loans, College Ave is likely a better choice. Several options for repayment means that you can tinker with your loans to find the right payoff schedule for you, both while you’re in school and when you graduate. It’s also a digital-first lender, with a quick application process and dozens of educational articles.

Sallie Mae, on the other hand, could be the better choice if you want more of a well-rounded student loan provider. Its loans are not as flexible as those of College Ave, but it does provide resources for students to find scholarships, plan for college and get study help. It also gives students the opportunity to defer student loans during internships, clerkships and more.

It’s smart to get quotes from both companies before applying, even if you think that you’ve made up your mind. Eligibility requirements vary by lender, so Sallie Mae could end up giving you a much cheaper loan than College Ave, or vice versa. One you have offers from both companies side by side, you can make a more informed decision about which is better for you.

Written by
David McMillin
Contributing writer
David McMillin is a contributing writer for Bankrate and covers topics like credit cards, mortgages, banking, taxes and travel. David's goal is to help readers figure out how to save more and stress less.
Edited by
Student loans editor