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

The right choice for you comes down to your priorities regarding student loans, as well as which lender offers you the best rates. Getting quotes from several companies before deciding is always a good idea.

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 6.37% to 16.70% Variable APR; 4.50% to 15.49% Fixed APR (with autopay) 5.59% to 16.65% Variable APR; 4.11% to 15.44% Fixed APR (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; college-focused financial tools; quarterly FICO credit score; 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, the company has pros and cons 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 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 a 1.5- out of 5-star rating on Trustpilot based on 33 reviews, 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 5, 10 or 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 flexible 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 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 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.

Flexible repayment options: College Ave

If you’re looking for flexibility with your student loans, College Ave is likely a better choice. Several options for repayment mean 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.

Comprehensive resource: Sallie Mae

On the other hand, Sallie Mae 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 allows students to defer student loans during internships, clerkships and more.

Prequalification: College Ave

If you want to know whether you’ll qualify with or without a cosigner before you apply, College Ave is possibly the better choice. It offers a prequalification tool you can use to check estimated rates and terms before you submit a loan application without hurting your credit score. By comparison, Sallie Mae doesn’t offer prequalification — you have to submit a formal loan application, which requires a hard credit check.

Fast co-signer release: Sallie Mae

If you plan on applying with a co-signer and want the option to release them as quickly as possible, Sallie Mae is the clear winner. Sallie Mae offers co-signer release after 12 months of on-time payments. By contrast, College Ave only offers release after you’ve completed half of the repayment term. For example, if your repayment term is 5 years, it’s possible to release your co-signer after 2.5 years.

Cheapest loan offer: Either

Eligibility requirements vary by lender. Sallie Mae could give you a much cheaper loan than College Ave, or vice versa. If you have offers from both companies, you can make a more informed decision about which is better for you.

The bottom line

College Ave and Sallie Mae are two of the best student loan companies. College Ave offers more flexible payment options than Sallie Mae, allowing you to check your rate without affecting your credit score. Sallie Mae offers a faster co-signer release period and more resources, such as a scholarship search tool and free quarterly FICO scores. Which one may be best depends on which one gives you the cheapest rate and tools you need to be confident in your student loan.