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      July 5, 2020

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SunTrust vs Sallie Mae

To help you find the Best Student Loans, TopConsumerReviews.com provides you with an in-depth comparison of SunTrust 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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Best Reviews

2020

Student Loan Reviews

5 stars
SunTrust

SUNTRUST

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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
  • Cosigner release option after several years of on-time payments
  • Variable interest rates from 3.864% to 9.262% APR
  • Fixed interest rates from 4.599% to 10.329% APR
  • Minimum monthly payment of $50 during repayment period
  • Customer service: 866-232-3889

TopConsumerReviews.com Best-In-Class Blue Ribbon Award SunTrust's motto is "Lighting the Way to Financial Well-Being", and they place a strong emphasis on helping the average American to move from financial stress to confidence. Their student loans fit well with this goal, with a wide variety of options and borrower-friendly advantages.

Student loan criteria

In order to be eligible for one of SunTrust's two main student loans, Custom Choice or Graduate Business School, you will need to meet the following criteria:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Be enrolled at least half-time in a Title IV program at an eligible school (which you can find on the first page of the loan application; after entering your school's state, you'll find a dropdown box with all of the eligible schools included)
  • Be the legal age of majority (or at least 17 if applying with an older cosigner)

One small note to keep in mind: SunTrust Custom Choice and Graduate Business School loans are not currently available to students whose permanent state of residency is Iowa or Wisconsin.

Low interest rates

As with most of the private student loan providers we reviewed, SunTrust has no application or origination fees, no penalties for paying off loans early, and no payments required until six months after you leave school. But, compared with the competition, SunTrust has interest rates that are considerably lower (see above in the list of features), along with more beneficial interest rate reductions available, such as:

  • 1% reduction of your principal balance when you graduate
  • Up to 0.50% rate reduction for automatic payments
  • Seasonal offers of 0.25% interest rate reduction
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Custom choice loan options

As the name implies, the Custom Choice program has a number of options for your loan (the Graduate Business School loans do as well, but their options are slightly more limited. See the business school loan page for more details). Once your student loan application has been approved, you will be able to compare the available loan options:

  • Rate type: fixed or variable
  • Loan term: 7, 10, or 15 years (7 or 10 for Graduate Business School loans)
  • Repayment options: immediate repayment, interest-only, partial interest, or full deferment until 6 months after leaving school

Be aware that, unless you have a solid employment history and a very good credit score, you'll likely need a cosigner who does meet those criteria: the average borrower (or cosigner) who qualifies for a SunTrust student loan has a FICO score of 750, with a minimum requirement in the mid-600s.

Compassionate lender

We were genuinely impressed by SunTrust's compassionate approach, for lack of a better phrase, to the structuring of their student loans. For example, while some lenders have no mercy when it comes to the death or disability of the primary borrower and still insist on being repaid, SunTrust offers loan forgiveness in the event of the primary borrower's death or disability (with proper documentation, of course). Also, if you need a cosigner to qualify for a loan from SunTrust, that cosigner can be released after payment of the first 48 consecutive, on-time monthly payments.

Highest rating

Because of their lower interest rates and borrower-friendly repayment terms, we give SunTrust student loans our highest rating of 5 stars as our top pick for student loans.

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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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