Pop Quiz:
How much do you know about higher education financing?

Financial Literacy

College should be more affordable and accessible for students from all backgrounds, and we’re committed to making that happen by helping families confidently navigate to, through and immediately after college. We power confidence in students and families by providing tools and resources to make informed decisions about higher education.

Test your own college preparedness knowledge by taking the quiz below.


81% of college-bound students view a degree as a ticket to better jobs and opportunities in the future.


However, while most know the value of a college degree, 42% of students and families say they need help planning for college.

The good news is there are free tools and resources to help. See how Sallie Mae makes sense of planning for college.

81% of students believe in the value of a college degree.


Three in 10 families did not submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in 2023.


The FAFSA opens the door to $112 billion in federal, state and school-based financial aid, including scholarships, work-study programs and Pell Grants. Still, many families find the process of applying too complicated or think they wouldn’t qualify for aid. Creating more awareness and education about the FAFSA will help connect more students to free money like scholarships and grants and help address overborrowing.


The largest portion of college costs is paid by student borrowing.


The largest portion of college costs was paid from parents’ income and savings (40%); the second-largest portion was covered by scholarships and grants (29%); student and parent borrowing (19%), student income and savings (10%), and funds from relatives and friends (2%).

Sallie Mae has several free resources like planning calculators and a scholarship search that help students build their plan and pay for college with confidence. If families need to cover remaining costs, we offer responsible, private student loans.

40% of college costs in 2022-23 was paid from parents’ income and savings.


Only A+ students and athletes get scholarships.


There are scholarships available for all students and interests. We mean it – scholarships for puppeteers, left-handed students, duck callers, and even students who made their own duct tape prom dress.

All students and families can use our free scholarship search tools and resources to find and apply for millions of dollars of scholarships.

45% of families believe scholarships are only for star athletes or students with the best grades.


All Pell Grants were claimed last year.


Encouraging more students to complete the FAFSA will help connect them to this funding. Policymakers should also consider meeting the needs of today’s students such as reforming the existing program, which would help put more students on the path to long-term success.

Nearly $3.6 billion in Pell Grants went unclaimed last year.


64% of students who start college graduate in six years.


We think unexpected costs should never cost a student their future. Sallie Mae is working to help more students earn a degree through its charitable arm, The Sallie Mae Fund, which has partnered with Thurgood Marshall College Fund to help students complete their program of study. To date, we’ve awarded more than 500 Completing the Dream scholarships, eliminating $1.3 million in student debt and expenses to help students from underserved and underrepresented communities graduate.

Less than 40% of students do not graduate within six years

Often due to barriers outside of their control, such as financial difficulties or mental health challenges. This often leaves Americans with debt, but no degree.


At least 70% of students are considered “non-traditional.”


From attending school part-time to being a single caregiver, the majority of students are considered “non-traditional,” according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Reforms to our current higher education system should include better support for diverse paths to higher education and for students from all backgrounds.

At least 70% of students

have identified as being independent for financial aid purposes, having one or more dependents, being a single caregiver, not having a traditional high school diploma, delaying postsecondary enrollment, attending school part time, or being employed full time.


All federal student loan programs consider a student’s ability to repay before lending.


Certain federal student loan programs allow for unlimited borrowing without accessing a family’s ability to repay. Unlimited federal lending causes students to take on more debt than they can afford. Federal loan increases have also led to higher tuition.

Tuition costs have increased by 169%