Being so large, Sallie Mae can offer pretty much any variation of private student loan that exists. Loans are available to students and parents. There are no origination fees or pre-payment penalties and it takes about 15 minutes to apply. For undergraduate loans, variable rates range from 4.37 to 11.23% and fixed-rate loans range from 5.74 to 11.85% APR. Once you make 12 on-time payments, you can qualify for a co-signer release and carry the loans on your own.
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If you or your recent grad has this type of loan—which makes up 15 percent of total U.S. education debt—this may seem like an odd move. After all, the interest rates on variable private loans (given by banks and credit unions) are currently lower than the fixed rates on federally backed and private loans. But historically this situation is unusual, and if the economy improves, interest hikes are probable in the near future. “Rates could climb 5 to 6 percent over the next four years, making your monthly burden unmanageable,” says Kantrowitz. That’s why it’s wise to unload these balances as soon as possible. If you can, pay twice the required amount until you have eliminated this debt and make only the minimum monthly contribution toward your fixed-rate federal loans, since those rates cannot increase.
If you decide to take out a loan, make sure you understand who is making the loan and the terms and conditions of the loan. Student loans can come from the federal government, from private sources such as a bank or financial institution, or from other organizations. Loans made by the federal government, called federal student loans, usually have more benefits than loans from banks or other private sources. Learn more about the differences between federal and private student loans.