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      August 12, 2020

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iHelp vs Sallie Mae

To help you find the Best Student Loans, TopConsumerReviews.com provides you with an in-depth comparison of iHelp and Sallie Mae.

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Apply for Your Student Loan at SunTrust Today As the costs of higher education rise, so does the need for student loans. While some individuals are eligible for federal loans, those loans don't always cover the full cost of getting an education - not just tuition and room/board, but books, laptops, transportation and other expenses. And, people who are ineligible for federal loans don't necessarily have overflowing savings accounts to match their college or university costs.

Private student loans are the way that many students close that gap. On average, students have nearly $40,000 in student loan debt at the time of graduation; without those funds, their aspirations of being a teacher, engineer, or social worker may have been put on hold indefinitely.

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2020

Student Loan Reviews

4 stars
iHelp

I HELP

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Features:

  • No application or origination fees
  • No prepayment penalties
  • No payments required until 6 months after leaving school
  • Interest rate discount available after 24 on-time payments (highest rate only)
  • Cosigner release option after two years of on-time payments
  • ONLY offers variable interest rates, from 3.18% to 8.71% APR
  • Loan repayment term: 20 years
  • Deferment and forbearance options available
  • Customer service: 800-645-7404

If you like the thought of having your student loan financed by a community bank rather than a big-name financial institution, you'll want to check out what iHelp has to offer. Since 2010, they've managed more than $600 million in private student loans as a subsidiary of the Student Loan Finance Corp. (which maintained an A+ rating as an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau at the time of our review).

Eligibitlity requirements

It's important to note that iHelp has a single student loan product: a variable-rate Private Student Loan with a 20-year repayment term, so if you feel more comfortable with fixed-rate products and/or shorter terms, you will want to choose another lender. On the other hand, if current market interest rates leave you feeling like a variable-rate loan is a good thing (as it often is), here's what iHelp requires for eligibility:

  • You're a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or applying with a cosigner who meets one of those two requirements
  • You're enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school (see site for list of eligible institutions)
  • You and your cosigner are of legal age in your state(s) of permanent residence
  • You and your cosigner have at least 3 years of positive credit history
  • You or your cosigner has an annual income of at least $18,000 for the past 2 years

Your loan must be a minimum of $1,000 ($3,000 in Georgia) and can be a maximum of $100,000 for undergraduate studies and $150,000 for graduate programs.

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Student loan interest rates

Your interest rate will be based in the LIBOR, the interest rate London banks charge each other for loans, which is a common benchmark used for bank rates around the world. At the time we looked at iHelp, their interest rates were as follows:

  • LIBOR + 2.50% (3.18% APR)
  • LIBOR + 4.50% (5.08% APR)
  • LIBOR + 5.75% (6.23% APR)
  • LIBOR + 8.50% (8.71% APR)

Interest rate reduction

Unlike the majority of the lenders we considered, iHelp does not offer a rate discount for making automatic payments to the account. On the other hand, for borrowers who qualify only for the highest interest rate, you may be eligible for a reduction of 0.30% after you have made your first 24 payments on time. We also like that cosigners can be released after those same 24 on-time payments, regardless of the interest rate on the loan.

Loan repayment options

iHelp also has a great range of possibilities for loan repayments. If you're attending school at least half-time, you can opt to make interest-only payments, no payments at all until you graduate or attend less than half-time; or making principal and interest payments as normal. Or, after your loan enters the repayment period; you can also choose principal and interest; interest-only for 24 months, or graduated repayment, which starts with interest-only repayments and moves up gradually until you're making the full principal plus interest payment amount.

Generous deferment options

iHelp also has one of the most generous deferment and forbearance options we've found. Like most lenders, you can defer repayments as long as you're enrolled half-time or more at an eligible school. But, what happens if you have a temporary financial difficulty, military service, or a natural disaster? iHelp will work with you to forbear your payments for up to 24 months, or to make partial payments, if you can demonstrate the need.

Overall, if you're comfortable with the relative uncertainty of a variable-rate loan and like the idea of borrowing from a community bank, iHelp is an excellent option for your student loan.

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2.5 stars
Sallie Mae

SALLIE MAE

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Features:

  • No application or origination fees
  • No prepayment penalties
  • No payments required until 6 months after leaving school
  • Interest rate discounts available for automatic payments
  • Cosigner release option after one year of on-time payments
  • Graduated Repayment Period feature
  • Variable interest rates from 2.50% to 9.59% APR
  • Fixed interest rates from 5.74% to 11.85% APR
  • Minimum monthly payment of $50 during repayment period
  • Customer service: 877-279-7172

You may be familiar with SallieMae already when it comes to student loans. Until several years ago, they were responsible for the administration of federal student loans as well as private ones; however, they have since split off into a lender strictly for private student funding, in addition to other consumer products such as banking and credit cards.

No-frills site

As you might expect from a website that used to be a government program, SallieMae is not flashy or interesting to look at: just a basic site for getting a student loan, known as the Smart Option program.

Borrow up to 100% of college costs

Like most private student loan programs, you'll be able to apply with no application fee and no origination fees. Also, SallieMae is one of the few lenders we reviewed that allows you to borrow up to 100% of your school-certified cost of attendance, with no arbitrary caps or other limits.

Qualification criteria

To qualify for a SallieMae Smart Option student loan, you'll need to meet these criteria:

  • U.S. citizen, or foreign student with a creditworthy cosigner that is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Good credit (you or your cosigner), typically a minimum score of 640; the average SallieMae borrower has a credit score of 748

3 repayment options

If you choose a SallieMae Smart Option student loan, you'll have three primary repayment options:

  • Deferred Repayment: no requirements for payment until you've left school
  • Fixed Repayment: $25/month while in school, resulting in an average savings of 12% over the life of the loan
  • Interest Repayment: make monthly interest-only payments while in school, resulting in an average savings of 25% over the life of the loan

You can get additional savings of 0.25% on your interest rate if you choose to make automatically-debited payments while still enrolled in school.

Graduated repayment period

And, for new graduates, you have the option of requesting a "Graduated Repayment Period". This means that if your loan is in good standing and you've graduated, you can request to make 12 interest-only payments, helping you ease into you full payment amount for up to a year after you've graduated (and hopefully gotten a job!).

Other student loan products

SallieMae has several other student loan products that may be applicable to your situation: Career Training Smart Option, Medical/Dental Residency and Relocation Loan, and Bar Study Loan. We recommend you visit the website if your loan falls into those categories.

Cosigner release

Another advantage of SallieMae's program is the possibility of cosigner release after 12 on-time principal and interest payments. This is an improvement over some of their competitors, who require as many as four years of on-time payments before being eligible for a cosigner release. There may also be options for deferment and forbearance - we found several references to those possibilities on other sites, but SallieMae does not make it easy to find the fine print on their own website.

Loan servicing issues

Despite competitive interest rates and some advantages over other student loan providers, SallieMae appears to come up very short when it comes to servicing borrowers' needs after the loan has been approved. We found a significant number of customers who said that they regretted the day they applied for a SallieMae loan, had payments applied incorrectly or not at all, or were sent to collections despite making regular on-time payments. Other reviews said that the representatives treated them rudely, going so far as to call them names or make condescending comments regarding ways in which the borrowers could get the money needed to make their next payment. This is unprofessional at best.

So, while we can't overlook some of the advantages SallieMae has over other student loan companies, we are concerned over the way they handle customer service after the loan has been approved.

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Continued from above

Fortunately, there are many lenders who want to make it as affordable and simple as possible to complete undergraduate and graduate-level studies. Some represent well-known, established financial institutions, while others work directly with networks of community banks to get much-needed cash into the hands of eager learners.

Comparing offers from lenders can be as easy as going online; in a matter of minutes and mouse clicks, you can see a variety of interest rates, repayment terms, and other details of each program for which you are eligible. This saves you significant time compared with going hat in hand to your local bank or other lending institution, hoping that they will say yes to your loan application.

When deciding on which lender to use for your student loan, you should consider the following factors:

  • Interest rates. The higher your interest rates, the more you pay over the life of the loan. Does the lender have rates that are competitive? Does the lender offer you the choice between fixed and variable rates?
  • Loan terms. What is the repayment term? Does it give you enough time to get a good job and pay it back? Can you pay it off in advance with no penalty?
  • Discounts. Can you get your interest rates lowered by setting up automatic payments from your checking account? Will you get any perks for having a relationship with the lender in other ways, such as a checking account or credit card?
  • Reputation. Some lenders have a solid history of working with borrowers, while others have a not-so-great track record when it comes to customer service after the loan has been disbursed. How does this lender measure up?

TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best Student Loan providers available today. We hope this information helps you to get the money you need for your studies right away!

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