Three Ways Sallie Mae is Powering Confidence for All College Students

Accountability

Sallie Mae’s® mission is to power confidence for students and families along their unique journey through higher education. As a private student loan lender, we continue to prioritize providing families with the tools, resources and – if needed – responsible financing as they navigate to, through, and immediately after college.

Here are three examples of how we’re doing that:  

1. Simplifying College Planning

Earning a college degree sets students up for long-term success but applying to and paying for school can be complex. Sallie Mae® provides students and families a variety of free tools aimed at simplifying the process. 

Our free scholarship search tool provides information on more than 6 million scholarships collectively worth up to $30 billion, and our planning calculator allows students to enter their savings, scholarships, grants and loans to determine the full cost of attending a school.

2. Awarding Scholarships

As part of an effort to support access and completion in higher education, Sallie Mae® has committed millions in scholarships to support students from underserved communities.

Through academic year 2023-2024, The Sallie Mae Fund is partnering with Thurgood Marshall College Fund to provide $3 million in scholarships to help minority students and students from underserved communities access and complete higher education.

“Higher education transforms lives, and we’re committed to removing the financial barriers that so often prevent students from persisting to degree completion,” said Dr. Harry Williams, President and CEO of Thurgood Marshall College Fund. “That’s why we are thrilled to partner with Sallie Mae® on this scholarship program.”

Scholarships from Sallie Mae® continue to open the door to higher education for students and families who otherwise may not have access to these opportunities.

“As a first-generation and low-income student, I would not be able to pursue a legal education without the generosity of others,” said Vanessa Agudelo, a J.D. candidate at Harvard Law School who received a Sallie Mae® Bridging the Dream scholarship last year. “For students like me, getting accepted into the law school of your dreams is not enough. This scholarship has provided me with the financial resources to allow me to pursue my dream of becoming an education lawyer and increasing educational opportunities for vulnerable communities.”

3. Advancing Financial Education

For many students and families, paying for college is one of their first major financial decisions and research continues to show those with a plan are better prepared and more confident in meeting those costs. Research also shows that families are hungry for more financial education in high school. Last year, Sallie Mae® offered free financial literacy curriculum to high school students and their families on topics about saving, budgeting, financial aid, student loans, and repaying loans responsibly.

Through our college savings program, SmartyPig, we partnered with various personal finance experts to teach money management and saving tips for students and families with a focus on those from traditionally underserved communities.

In addition, Sallie Mae® also offers financial education for students after graduation. The program provides lessons on how to budget, manage debt, and build and maintain good credit.  

These are just some of the many ways we’re Powering Confidence – supporting students and families on their journeys to, through and immediately after college. Learn more by reading our Corporate Social Responsibility report.

College Confidence: 5 Things to Know About How Families Feel About Paying for College

Financial Literacy

More than 81% of college-bound students view a degree as their ticket to better jobs and opportunities in the future. Yet, nearly half of students and families feel stressed when thinking about how to plan and pay for higher education, according to Sallie Mae® and Ipsos’ recent College Confidence: What America Knows About Paying for College report.

Navigating through scholarships, grants, loans, and other financial aid can feel overwhelming—especially for first-generation college students but it doesn’t need to be. That said, those conversations about how to pay for college should start early.  Sallie Mae® provides students and families with free tools and resources to help them make informed decisions about their higher education.

Here are five findings from the report you should know:

1. Federal Student Loan Options Can be Confusing

Almost half of families expect to borrow money to pay for college, but roughly the same number of families don’t know federal loans need to be repaid. Specifically, less than half of college-bound families correctly identified direct subsidized loans (47%), direct unsubsidized loans (46%), and the Parent PLUS loans (41%) as money that needs to be repaid. More than two-thirds of families, however, know that private student loans need to be repaid.

The benefits of understanding loan options can help significantly once it’s time to start paying them back and avoid could families taking out loans without understanding their long-term impact.

2. The Cost of College Drives Decisions

Many families eliminate colleges based on cost – before researching available scholarships, grants, and other financial aid. However, according to the 2022 What America Knows about Paying for College report, an overwhelming percentage of families agree that investing in their student’s future by earning a college degree will create more opportunities, and are willing to stretch financially to make it happen.

Families where the student is the first to attend college, often called first-generation families, are more likely to face additional financial barriers when it comes to accessing and completing their education.

Two-thirds of first-generation households, for example, earn less than $100,000 annually, compared to just 22% of those families with a parent who attended college. Just 35% of first-generation families feel confident about paying for college and, 44% are unaware of resources available to help them plan and pay for college.

For families looking to understand the breakdown of college costs, Sallie Mae® offers a free college planning calculator. It allows students to enter savings, scholarships, grants and loans and see the full cost of attending a school, and helps students identify the right school within their budget and responsibly assess college costs.

3. Understanding Financial Aid Packages Can be Challenging

While families may be generally familiar with financial aid, there’s confusion about individual components of financial aid packages. In fact, nearly four in ten families (37%) are not aware of what information is included in financial aid offers from colleges and universities.

Moreover, 42% agree they need help planning to pay for college, with 43% believing there are too few resources to help pay for education and 40% feeling that the available options are overwhelming.

4. Too Many Families Skip The FAFSA

Although nearly three quarters of families have heard of FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, only 62% plan to submit it.

First-generation families are even less likely to submit the form (32%), even though almost half agree an increase in Pell Grants and need-based financial aid would help them pay for college. Even fewer families—20%—feel equipped to complete the application.

Nearly a third of families believe the FAFSA is a waste of time if parents make “too much” money to qualify for financial assistance. The government bases the need for aid on various factors, so it’s crucial for all families to fill out the application no matter what their financial situation looks like.

Failing to complete the FAFSA can mean students and families could miss out on thousands of dollars in free money like scholarships and grants or federal financial aid. 

5. Confusion Over Availability of Scholarships

Scholarships are available for a wide range students and interests — vegans, left-handers, Pokémon players, and Star Trek fans — but nearly half of families believe scholarships are only for star athletes or those with the best grades.

Unlike loans, scholarships do not have to be paid back, making them a vital tool for making college more affordable and minimizing debt. All students and families can use Sallie Mae’s free scholarship search tool to access more than six million scholarships, worth up to $30 billion. Students enter their interests and hobbies and receive a report of scholarships they may be eligible for, simplifying the search process.


Whether borrowing a federal or private student loan, Sallie Mae® is here to help any and all students and their families confidently navigate the college planning and payment process. Our goal is to set more students up for long-term success.

Our suite of free tools — available to all students and families — is available at salliemae.com/makeaplan

Building a Simpler, Less Burdensome College Financing System

Education Landscape

From simplifying the FAFSA to changing the way we approach paying for college—there are pragmatic steps we can take to change the federal college financing system so future students and families aren’t taking on debt they can’t afford. Read from Sallie Mae CEO Jon Witter ways we can improve the system and break the debt cycle for generations to come.