How Sallie Mae Prepares Students to Pay Back Their Loans

Financial Literacy

After years of studying and working hard, millions of college graduates across the nation are transitioning from college to the next chapter of their lives. This could mean new jobs, new cities, or new goals — a cause for celebration. 

Even after students finish college, the learning doesn’t stop. Next on the syllabus is setting and maintaining a healthy budget, and for those who borrowed to pay for college (41% of students, according to our “How America Pays for College 2023” report), that budget will soon include paying back student loans.

To ensure students get started on the right track, Sallie Mae® works to remove the element of surprise from loan payments by initiating clear communication with students and cosigners while they’re in school and throughout the life of their loans. As a responsible private lender, we believe that transparency and clarity about how much students and families owe and when they need to pay back their loans is critical to helping them responsibly plan for higher education. 

Staying up to date on student loan status

Students have very busy schedules, which is why we make it as easy as possible for them to stay up to date on the status of their loans. Students can create an online account or download the Sallie mobile app to get notifications of when their upcoming payments are due. They can even enroll in auto-debit to ensure their payments are always on time, which can also save them money by lowering their interest rate.

We also send students and their cosigners a loan summary each year they are in school, including interest accrued. This is especially important for customers who choose to defer payments on their loan during college, as it helps them keep track of what they’ve borrowed and what they owe. That said, roughly half of our customers choose to make a fixed payment or pay interest on their loans while in school, which can significantly lower the total cost of the loan.

Tools and tips for the six-month separation period

Sallie Mae private student loans come with a six-month separation or grace period for undergraduate programs that begins once a student leaves school, giving them time to find a job and get settled into post-college life. We let students know at the start of their grace period what their estimated payment amount will be and provide tips on when, where, and how to pay on time.

We also offer free tools to help students prepare for repayment, such as a monthly budget worksheet, which helps students create a budget to meet their financial goals and our student loan repayment calculator that gives students an estimate for their upcoming monthly payments.

At the end of the day, preparation is key to responsible financial planning. From the moment students take out a loan through the months post-graduation, we help students and families not only meet their loan payments, but make strides toward their financial goals.

From Acceptance Letter to Degree: How America Completes College

Education Landscape

While getting into college is no small feat, it’s getting the degree that will really help students achieve their dreams. But, as many students are realizing, graduation is not a given.

To better understand barriers to college completion and what helps students graduate, Sallie Mae and Ipsos released the latest research report How America Completes College 2024. The report also serves as a companion to How America Pays for College, the company’s annual research on how families plan and pay for higher education.


Surveyed:

1,029 adults (ages 18-30) currently enrolled in a two- or four-year program

427 adults (ages 18-30) who started two- to four-year programs but did not complete them

The study categorizes students into three distinct groups: those “on track” for graduation; those who have never contemplated leaving school; those “at risk” of leaving or facing dismissal; and “non-completers,” adults under the age of 30 who started college but left without obtaining a degree or completing their program.


Non-Completers

One in four current undergraduate students say they are at risk of non-completion, and 57% of students at risk of not completing come from low-income households.

At-Risk Students

73% of on-track students were always committed to attending college, compared to 44% of at-risk students. At-risk students are nearly three times more likely to have transferred schools compared to on-track students and are also more likely to come from diverse backgrounds, including being Hispanic, Black, and part of LGBTQIAA+ communities.

Having a plan to pay for all four years of college before enrolling is linked to student graduation rates. See how Sallie Mae helps students plan for college. Students who know what degree or career path they want to pursue are more likely to stay in school.

There is a strong link between mental health and leaving college, and increased mental health challenges highlight the need for more support and resources for all students.

First-Generation Students

First-generation students are twice as likely (41%) to have seriously considered leaving college compared to students from families with college experience (18%). Although 88% of first-generation college students believe college is an investment in the future, they face significant barriers to college completion.

*compared to just one quarter (25%) of on-track students who are working while in school.

Students need support not only to access, but complete higher education. Especially for first-generation students and those from underserved communities, early college planning is critical. By developing programs and resources that support college completion, simplifying the college transfer process and expanding Pell Grants to apply to short-term training programs, policymakers, institutions and higher education stakeholders can help more students finish their degree.

Three Ways to Limit Overborrowing for Higher Education

Accountability

Students and families borrow nearly $100 billion from the federal government annually

Each year, students and families borrow nearly $100 billion from the federal government for higher education. Many times, they’re borrowing more than they need to, and often more than they are able to repay.

In the 2021-22 academic year, 49% of bachelor’s degree recipients from public four-year institutions graduated with an average federal debt level of $20,700 per borrower, found College Board’s 2023 Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid.  According to Sallie Mae’s How America Pays for College report, students during the 2022-2023 academic year borrowed an average of $11,337 and parents $13,507 to pay for higher education, an increase of 21% and 25%, respectively, over the previous year.

Programs that allow unlimited loan amounts, complex applications for financial aid, and confusion over eligibility for grants and scholarships all contribute to overborrowing.

Here are three ways to help address overborrowing:

Encourage Students to Start with Grants and Scholarships

Each year, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®)* opens the door to more than $100 billion in grants, scholarships, state-based aid, federal student loans and work-study programs. Still, 30% of families didn’t apply last academic year, including those from low-income families who would be most eligible for free money like scholarships and grants. Many aren’t applying because the form is too complex, they believe their family’s income is too high or they simply lack awareness about the FAFSA. 

Adding to the complications this year are significant glitches and delays resulting from the rollout of a new, streamlined FAFSA. While the intent was to simplify the process and expand eligibility for need-based aid, persistent implementation issues have left students and families frustrated. Still, it’s critical we continue to educate students and families about the importance of completing the FAFSA so they can access free money for college.

Similarly, more than $100 million in scholarships goes unclaimed each year. Too many students and families don’t apply for scholarships thinking they are reserved for top students or athletes, but there are scholarships available for a wide variety of skills and interests. Free resources like Scholarship Search by Sallie simplifies the process, connecting students and families to scholarships.

Standardize Financial Aid Offers

Financial aid offers too often leave families confused about the true cost of higher education, according to a study by the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO). It found 91% of colleges and universities did not clearly state the net price of college — the amount a student owes after scholarships and grants — in their financial aid offers.  

A standardized, transparent offer that clearly itemizes direct costs and fees would help students and families make informed decisions about which school to attend and how much they’re expecting to pay—ultimately helping to avoid overborrowing.

Consider Reasonable Limits for Federal Loan Amounts

Some federal lending programs allow students and families to borrow unlimited amounts to pay for higher education, a policy that has resulted in higher student and parent debt and contributed to the rising cost of tuition.

In fact, unlimited federal government loans have contributed to federal graduate student debt reaching its highest amount ever. According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Education, the share of students who borrowed more than $80,000 to cover graduate costs increased from 1.4% in 2000 to 11% in 2016.

New America Foundation and the Urban Institute have recommended putting reasonable limits on these federal loans to prevent students and families from borrowing more than they can afford to repay. This type of reform could also slow the exponential growth of college tuition.

These three reforms are important steps toward helping students and families borrow responsibly, while ensuring access to higher education.

FAFSA is a registered service mark of U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid

What Students and Families Need to Know About The FAFSA

Financial Literacy

As a responsible private lender, Sallie Mae advises students and families to explore free money like scholarships and grants before borrowing. The gateway to this aid is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), which gives students and families access to $114 billion in scholarships, grants, state-based and federal financial aid. Too many families, however, miss out on this critical aid because of persistent misconceptions about their eligibility or confusion around how to complete the application, resulting in billions of dollars left unclaimed each year.

In fact, about a third of families skipped the form altogether in the 2022-2023 academic year, according to Sallie Mae’s How America Pays for College 2023 report, with 20% saying they had a problem with the application or that it was too complicated. In addition, 72% of families could not identify when the FAFSA® became available. Adding to the complications this year are significant glitches and delays resulting from the rollout of a new FAFSA with fewer questions. While the intent was to streamline and simplify the process and expand eligibility for need-based aid like Pell grants, persistent implementation issues have left students and families frustrated and financial aid offers from schools delayed.

While these delays point to broader issues with the federal financing system for higher education, it’s still critical for families to complete the FAFSA. The FAFSA® is an important first step for students and families to help make college more accessible and affordable. Sallie Mae supports simplification of the FAFSA® and is improving awareness to help more students and families connect to scholarships, grants, and other critical aid.

As an education solutions provider, we provide free tools including a step-by-step FAFSA guide, information,  and webinars to help students and families navigate the new FAFSA and complete it. We also offer free resources like Scholarship Search by Sallie to help students and families find and apply for scholarships.

Here are five important points that students and families should know about the FAFSA®:

1. All students—regardless of family income—should complete the form.

Most families—88%—know to submit the FAFSA® each year so that their school student qualifies for financial aid, but not all families know that every student is eligible to apply. Some families believe their income is too high for their student to qualify for aid, a most frequently mentioned reason why families didn’t submit the FAFSA® last year.

The reality is all students, regardless of income, should complete the form. Some of that aid, like scholarships, grants and state-based aid, is offered on a first-come, first-served basis. That’s why the sooner families can complete the FAFSA®, the better. And while the FAFSA was delayed in 2023, the release date for the 2025-2026 school year should return to the normal open date of October 1.

2. The FAFSA® is free.

Families should never pay to submit the FAFSA®. Filing is free, period. A paid service will not get students more aid. Sallie Mae offers students a step-by-step guide for navigating the new FAFSA, but they can also check with their high school, local college, and financial aid office for assistance.

3. Fill out the “special circumstances” form when financial information changes.

Students and families—including those attending graduate school—should complete the FAFSA® every year they are in school. That said, sometimes income and other factors may change due to circumstances such as a job loss or medical emergency. That’s when completing a “special circumstances” form may make sense. The form is available from college financial aid offices and can help students receive additional aid in certain situations.

4. List schools on the FAFSA® even if it’s not a final list.

If students don’t list all colleges they’re considering on their FAFSA®, then the schools won’t know the student is interested in applying for grant money from them. Students should also always list state schools first in case they offer additional state-based aid on a priority basis.

5. There is no age limit.

Federal financial aid is just as available to non-traditional students in the 24- to 35-year-old range as it is to students in their late teens and early twenties. There’s no age limit for receiving federal financial aid—so all students and families should apply.

FAFSA is a registered service mark of U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid

It’s Time to Meaningfully Expand the Pell Grant

Education Landscape

Without question, higher education opens doors of opportunity. Americans with some form of college degree typically earn significantly more in their lifetime than those without a degree.

The median lifetime earnings of an American with a bachelor’s degree is $2.8 million; for an associate degree, it’s $2 million. In contrast, those with a high school diploma have $1.6 million in median lifetime earnings, according to a report from Georgetown University.

In the more than five decades since it launched, the Pell Grant has helped low- and middle-income students unlock a path to economic prosperity by providing critical need-based funding that does not have to be repaid. Since 1980, the Pell Grant has helped more than 211.8 million students access — and complete — higher education.

Nearly seven million undergraduate students receive a Pell Grant each year.  At the same time about $3.6 billion in Pell Grant awards went unclaimed last year, meaning students are missing out on millions of dollars of free aid that could support their higher education. 

It’s time to increase awareness of the Pell Grant and enhance it to meet the needs of 21st-century students, many of whom are first-generation college students, from underserved or underrepresented communities, or exploring non-traditional paths to higher education.

Reforms — such as meaningfully increasing the size of the Pell Grant or allowing it to be applied to more programs — could increase access to higher education and limit the potential for overborrowing, as would informing families about the importance of completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). A modernized Pell Grant could put more students on a path to long-term success.

Raising Awareness About FAFSA Completion

To receive a Pell Grant, students must first complete the FAFSA. Our research shows that only 20% of families with a student planning to pursue higher education feel very prepared to complete the FAFSA, and only a third of first-generation families plan to submit the form — even while 42% of them agree that more grant aid would make college more affordable.

Recent updates to simplify the FAFSA application have made the application more streamlined. The updated FAFSA may help significantly more students from low-income backgrounds receive Pell Grants and potentially 1.5 million more students receive the maximum amount than previous years, according to recent data from the U.S. Department of Education. Raising awareness about completing the FAFSA is key to helping families unlock more aid for higher education.

Meaningfully Increase Funding

A study from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities found that boosting the size of the Pell Grant would increase college retention and enrollment rates for low-income students. A separate analysis from the Urban Institute concluded that doubling the Pell Grant maximum amount would lead to higher grant awards for students of color, a change that could help to address decades-old education inequalities.

The Pell Grant was increased by $500 last year, but with inflation and higher costs of living, the increase isn’t significant. Sallie Mae supports meaningfully increasing the Pell Grant to meet the needs of students today.

Policymakers should also consider allowing the Pell Grant to be used for short-term skills training programs, such as coding boot camps or trade schools. Expanding the Pell Grant would help students start a new career more affordably while simultaneously addressing skills gaps.

Supporting Those With The Most Need

Our federal student loan program has been broken for far too long, often impacting those who need the most support. Meaningfully expanding the Pell Grant, and increasing awareness of its benefits and the associated application process, are critical to ensure that the federal higher education financing system does what it was intended to — facilitate access to education for those with the greatest need.

Sallie Mae Commits $1M to Delaware State University to Close College Completion Gap

Education Landscape

Sallie Mae, through The Sallie Mae Fund, announced a $1 million research endowment to Delaware State University (DSU) to help close the college completion gap. The grant will support a comprehensive three-year “Persistence and Completion Pilot Program” that will identify and study barriers to degree completion, help students return to school and complete, and help develop policy recommendations and best practices to enhance student re-engagement at DSU, HBCUs, and institutions across the country.

Graduation rates at HBCUs remain lower than the national average: nationwide, six in 10 students who start college go on to earn a degree within six years; at HBCUs around 40% do. The number of students who have some college experience, but no degree, is a distressing 40 million. In addition, 19 percent of Black learners — nearly 6.4 million students — had some college experience but no degree. Approximately 3 million are “near completers” who have stopped out mere credits away from degree completion.

The program will create a student-centered and data-focused co-branded white paper that lays out higher education policy solutions to increase degree completion. The paper will uplift diverse student voices who have lived experience leaving college without a degree. Research findings and learnings will be presented at a future DSU HBCU Philanthropy Symposium to offer outcomes and recommend solutions for degree completion that can be broadly considered and implemented at HBCUs and institutions nationwide.

Part of the funding will also scale DSU’s current Near Completer program—created in partnership with Thurgood Marshall College—which identifies students with only some college experience and supports their re-enrollment and degree completion. DSU and Sallie Mae have identified over 900 near-completer students, hundreds of whom the program will look to re-engage. The program will also offer $125,000 in scholarships to help cover financial barriers, such as food and technology insecurities, in addition to tuition, fees and books.  

This partnership reflects Sallie Mae and Delaware State University’s shared commitment to close the college completion gap at HBCUs and provide critical support through research, policy recommendations, and financial aid. 

The partnership was celebrated in December at the 13th Annual Delaware State University Scholarship Ball. At the ball, Sallie Mae CEO Jon Witter noted, “Our mission is to power confidence as students begin their unique journey. We are all about helping students with that journey to, through, and immediately after their higher education experience. This builds community and a culture of dedication to the university, and that lasts for years.”

Sallie Mae Awards $250,000 in Scholarships to Increase Access to Higher Education

Education Landscape

To commemorate National Scholarship Month, Sallie Mae announced the latest recipients of its Bridging the Dream Scholarship for High School Seniors. The Sallie Mae Fund, the company’s charitable arm, has partnered with Thurgood Marshall College Fund for the last three years to award scholarships to deserving under-resourced and underrepresented students. 

This year’s 27 deserving high school students were awarded up to $10,000 each to access higher education.

The diverse and impressive Bridging the Dream scholarship recipients were selected from more than 1,100 applicants nationwide and a majority are attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities. They are pursuing a diverse range of degrees, including criminal justice, musical theater, social work, engineering, and more.

Meet this year’s outstanding students.


2023-2024 Bridging the Dream Scholarships Recipients

Mohamed Adam

Hometown: New Hyde Park, N.Y.

College: Stony Brook University

Major/Minor: Political Science and Economics

Nicholas Allen

Hometown: Milton, Ga.

College: North Carolina A&T University

Major/Minor: Biology, Business Finance and Engineering

Azhyia Clemons

Hometown: Rochester, N.Y.

College: North Carolina Central University

Major/Minor: Pre-Law, Political Science and Accounting

Madison Corzine

Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas

College: Spelman College

Major/Minor: Political Science

Emery  Delbridge

Hometown: McDonough, Ga.

College: Savannah State University

Major/Minor: Environmental Science

Na’Zari Donegal-Pringle

Hometown: Wilmington, Del.

College: Delaware State University

Major/Minor: Business

Nyela Harrison

Hometown: Hayward, Calif.

College: Hampton University

Major/Minor: Systems, Organization and Management

Nakeia Jones

Hometown: Conway, Ark.

College: Middle Tennessee State University

Major/Minor: Audio Production

Anna Kaplan

Hometown: Centreville, Va.

College: Oakland University

Major/Minor: Musical Theatre

Victoria Latino

Hometown: Mine Hill, N.J.

College: Niagara University

Major/Minor: Criminal Justice

Dominic Lee

Hometown: Kennesaw, Ga.

College: Clark Atlanta University

Major/Minor: Pre-Law, Business, Marketing, Communications and Spanish

Marcellus Odum

Hometown: Lake Cormorant, Miss.

College: Georgia Institute of Technology

Major/Minor: Mechanical Engineering and Public Policy

Nydia Phillips

Hometown: Texas, Ala.

Major/Minor: Southern University and A&M College

Major/Minor: Business

Andrew Pierre

Hometown: Lanham, Md.

College: Bowie State University

Major/Minor: Computer Science and Engineering

Reyna Porter

Hometown: Lithonia, Ga.

College: Howard University

Major/Minor: Theatre Arts and Sports Medicine

Chayil Rattler

Hometown: Stockbridge, Ga.

College: Jackson State University

Major/Minor: Mass Media Arts, Theatre

Tyson Redding

Hometown: Fontana, Calif.

College: University of Hawaii of Manoa

Major/Minor: Education, Business and Animation

Maya Stepnick

Hometown: Toledo, Ohio

College: The Ohio State University

Major/Minor: Environmental Science or Social Work (Undecided)

Jared Wilder

Hometown: North Charleston, S.C.

College: Hampton University

Major/Minor: Physics and Biology

Sydney Wright

Hometown: Richmond, Va.

College: Norfolk State University

Major/Minor: Broadcast Journalism

Makaila Young

Hometown: Oswego, Ill.

College: Xavier University of Louisiana

Major/Minor: Biology, Chemistry and Spanish

Ka’Mya Anderson

Hometown: Horn Lake, Miss.

College: Alabama A&M University

Major/Minor: Biology

Sienna Stewart

Hometown: Gahanna, Ohio

College: Kentucky State University

Major/Minor: Environmental Science

Alexander Young

Hometown: Douglasville, Ga.

College: Morehouse College

Major/Minor: Cybersecurity

Devin Dixon

Hometown: Ellenwood, Ga.

College: Tuskegee University

Major/Minor: Veterinary/Animal Sciences

Matthew Payne

Hometown: Jonesboro, Ga.

College: Fort Valley State University

Major/Minor: Electrical Engineering

Milan Rothe

Hometown: Lakeway, Texas

College: Howard University

Major/Minor: Herbal Medicine, African Studies and Business Marketing

Focusing Reform to Address the College Completion Gap

Education Landscape

The promise of higher education comes from earning a degree, not from merely earning a few college credits. Still, far too many students begin college and fall short before reaching the finish line. In fact, the number of students who have some college experience, but no degree has reached a staggering 40 million.

Read more from Nicolas Jafarieh, Sallie Mae Executive Vice President, on how common-sense reforms to address the college completion gap can help more students not only access college, but successfully earn their degrees.

Why Scholarships are a Critical Tool for Families to Pay for College

Financial Literacy

Paying for college can be a complex, stressful process. Yet, a new study finds that students and families may be missing out on scholarships, which can help make college more affordable. In fact, almost 40% of families didn’t take advantage of scholarships to help cover last academic year’s college costs, according to Sallie Mae’s 2023 How America Pays for College report.

Almost half of families who didn’t apply for scholarships weren’t aware of available scholarships, and 29% believed they wouldn’t receive one. Many students also point to the time and effort it takes to find scholarships and complete their applications or believe scholarships are only for exceptional students or athletes.

Scholarship Search by Sallie helps connect students to free money for college. Students can easily find and sort through scholarships for a wide variety of skills and interests.

Don’t Leave Free Money on the Table

Applying for free money is the first step in Sallie Mae’s 1-2-3 approach to paying for college.

Free money, such as scholarships and grants, are often what enable students from underrepresented and underserved communities access higher education. Last academic school year, 85% of students attending public Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) used scholarships and grants to cover the cost of college. 

To help expand access and completion for more students, Sallie Mae’s Bridging the Dream Scholarship helps students from historically marginalized and underserved communities attend college. In partnership with Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), The Sallie Mae Fund awards high school students up to $10,000 in scholarships to access higher education. The Bridging the Dream Scholarship for Graduate Students awards $10,000 to graduate students who plan to use their degree to advocate for social justice and support their communities.

The Sallie Mae Fund and TMCF also offer the Completing the Dream Scholarship, which helps students from underrepresented backgrounds with unexpected college costs to help them graduate without financial barriers.

To date, Sallie Mae has awarded more than 600 scholarships totaling $2 million to help more students on their paths to success.

5 Things to Know About How America Pays for College

Financial Literacy

The federal higher education financing system is complicated and can often leave families feeling confused about all the potential paths for their education journey and where to start. To better understand how students and parents approach planning and paying for college, Sallie Mae annually conducts its “How America Pays for College” report with Ipsos.

The research explores education funding sources—from family income and savings to scholarships, grants, and borrowed funds—and evaluates trends in payments over time.

Here are five things to know about how America pays for college:

1. Slightly more than half of families have a plan for how to pay for college. 

Last year, 53% of students and families reported making a plan for how to pay for college before the student enrolled, slightly down from last year’s high of 59%.

Students attending four-year public and private schools are more likely to plan ahead than students attending 2-year schools. The same goes for families with prior college experience. Fifty-five percent of families with college experience have a financial plan, compared to 45% of first-generation college families.

An even larger gap exists between higher- and lower-income families. Seventy-nine percent of families who make more than $150,000 per year had a plan, compared to just 43% of families who make less than $50,000.

Sallie Mae helps power confidence through free tools like Scholarship Search by Sallie, where students can easily access a wide variety of scholarships.

2. Majority of families are still unaware of when the FAFSA® becomes available.

While FAFSA completion rates are holding steady at 71%, just more than seven in 10 families are still unaware of when the application opens, and 30% of families bypass the form altogether.

Among the families who didn’t submit the FAFSA, majority believed they made too much money to qualify. Twenty-five percent of families found the application to be too complicated, while nearly 30% reported not having the required information for the application.

The FAFSA is the gateway to accessing more than $112 billion in grants, scholarships, and federal financial aid for college, and those most likely to qualify for aid are not completing the form due to lack of awareness. States and colleges rely on information from the FAFSA to determine need-based aid for qualifying students.

3. Scholarships are key for accessing higher education, especially for students attending HBCUs.

Scholarships play a meaningful role in families’ college journeys—not only as a source of funding —but also a source of pride. More than half — 61% — of families relied on scholarships to help lower the cost of college last year. Most scholarships were given from the school the student was attending, followed by the state and non-profits or organizations. Students who attend public Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are even more likely to rely on scholarships, with 85% using scholarships and grants to cover the cost of college last year. Most families — 80% — agreed that scholarships made it possible for their child to attend college.

For families who didn’t take advantage of applying for scholarships, most said it was due to lack of awareness, low confidence in winning, or common misconceptions about who is eligible to apply. Forty-five percent of students and parents believe scholarships are only for exceptionally gifted students. In fact, there are scholarships available for all types of students — from being a first-generation college student to being left-handed.

Sallie Mae helps connects students to scholarships through Scholarship Search by Sallie.

4. Many families eliminate schools based on cost.

Choosing a college is a momentous decision that is largely impacted by the cost of attendance. Seventy-eight percent of families eliminated a school based on cost at some point during their college search and decision process last year. Around one third of families — 32% — said the current state of the economy impacted their decision as well.

Yet, 75% of families said they were willing to stretch themselves financially because they view higher education as an investment in the student’s future.

Sallie Mae helps students and families finance their higher education responsibly by encouraging and educating students on utilizing scholarships, grants, and other federal aid before borrowing.   

5. Many lower-income and first-generation families rely on grants.

While 57% of all families used grants to pay for college last year, first generation families and families earning less than $50,000 per year — 68% and 74% respectively — reported higher grant usage. Hispanic and Black families were also more likely to rely on grants to pay for college last year.

Sallie Mae supports meaningfully expanding grants, such as the Pell Grant — which has helped more than 80 million low-to middle-income students access and complete higher education. Last year, around $3.6 billion in Pell Grants went unclaimed, aid that could have helped more students achieve their college dreams. Meaningful reforms, such as the FAFSA Simplification Act and increasing the maximum Pell Grant amount, could help more students access this critical aid.

FAFSA is a registered service mark of U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid