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Student Loans

Sallie Mae vs. Ascent: Student Loan Comparison

Updated Jun 22, 2023   |   5-min read

In some industries, sticking with tried-and-true companies is a smart strategy. But when it comes to taking out private student loans, the newcomers often have something to offer. That’s why it’s important to shop around.

Sallie Mae is one of the oldest names in student loans, while Ascent is a relatively new company. Let’s see how the two compare by looking at their rates, terms, eligibility requirements, and other criteria.

View Rates

View Rates

Rates (APR) 4.50% – 16.20% 4.48%15.63%
Rates (APR) Rates (APR)
4.50% – 16.20% 4.48%15.63%
Loan amounts $1,000 – 100% of certified costs $2,001 – $200,000
Loan amounts Loan amounts
$1,000 – 100% of certified costs $2,001 – $200,000
Repayment terms 10 – 15 years 5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years
Repayment terms Repayment terms
10 – 15 years 5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years

In this comparison:

Does Sallie Mae or Ascent have better reviews and ratings?

When taking out a student loan, it’s wise to look at customer reviews before you select a lender. Choosing a lender with good customer service means it will be easier if something goes wrong, like an issue with having the money transferred to your school or applying payments correctly.

Sallie Mae1.9 out of 54.8 out of 5
Ascent3.7 out of 54.7 out of 5

Sallie Mae has a 1.9 out of 5 rating on Trustpilot, but they only have 19 reviews. Ascent has a 3.7 out of 5 rating on Trustpilot with only four reviews. With such a small sample size, it’s hard to say if Ascent delivers a significantly better customer service experience.

Is a student loan from Sallie Mae or Ascent more accessible?

Before you apply for a student loan, it’s important to understand the lender’s requirements. Every lender has its own criteria for student loans, and some have higher standards than others. 

Your credit score and income are two of the most important criteria. Your credit score reflects your record as a borrower and how responsible you are with paying back money to a lender. Your annual income provides important insight into whether you can afford to handle the monthly loan payments. 

Whether or not you have an eligible cosigner also matters when taking out a private student loan. Most private lenders require that borrowers have a cosigner, who is an adult with a steady income and a good credit score. The cosigner will be responsible for taking over payments if you default on your loans.

Lenders usually have similar citizenship requirements, and most require that a borrower be a US citizen or permanent resident. Both Sallie Mae and Ascent also give out loans to DACA students, as long as they have a cosigner who is a US citizen or permanent resident.

Read below to understand how Sallie Mae and Ascent’s requirements differ: 

Eligibility CriteriaSallie MaeAscent
Credit scoreMid 600s540 or above
IncomeNo minimum$24,000 or more per year
CosignerRequired if you can’t meet credit and income requirementsOffers no-cosigner loans
CitizenshipUS citizen or permanent resident or a cosigner who is one or the otherAll types of citizenship status are eligible. Temporary residents are eligible with a cosigner
AttendanceAny level of attendanceAt least part-time

Scenarios in which Sallie Mae or Ascent is better than the other

When taking out a private student loan, there are several different factors you should consider before choosing a lender. Read below to see when Sallie Mae or Ascent is a better option.

If you want a low interest rate: Sallie Mae

Sallie Mae offers lower interest rates than Ascent. Interest rates are one of the most important factors when taking out a loan. The higher the interest rate, the more total interest you’ll pay. Higher interest rates also result in higher monthly payments.

If you don’t have a cosigner: Ascent

Almost all private lenders require a cosigner on a loan unless the borrower has a good credit score and steady income. But many students don’t have an adult in their lives who is willing to be a cosigner. These students will often struggle to find financing for college—but that’s where lenders like Ascent come in.

Ascent does not require that borrowers have a cosigner to qualify for a private student loan, while Sallie Mae will require a cosigner if you don’t meet their income and credit score requirements.

Ascent charges higher interest rates for non-cosigned loans, but you can always refinance to a lower interest rate after graduation when you land a job.

If you’re a DACA student: Ascent

While Sallie Mae lets DACA students apply for a loan with a cosigner, Ascent does not require that DACA students have a cosigner to be eligible. They can still add a cosigner and possibly receive a lower interest rate, but it’s not required. 

If you’re not enrolled part-time: Sallie Mae

Most lenders require that borrowers be at least part-time students to qualify for a student loan. That’s because students who are attending college at least part-time are more likely to graduate and be able to pay back their student loans.

Sallie Mae does not require that borrowers be enrolled at least part-time to qualify for a student loan, while Ascent does. If you’re only taking a couple of classes, then Sallie Mae is a better option. This is perfect for borrowers who are going back to school and only need to take a couple of prerequisite courses or who are still working full-time. 

If you need a long forbearance period: Ascent

Ascent has a 24-month forbearance period, which is longer than almost any other private lender. That means that if you lose your job, are furloughed or incur other bills, you will not have to make payments for up to 24 months in total. Interest will continue to accrue during this time, which is similar to other lenders. 

Which company is our choice between Sallie Mae and Ascent?

Because Sallie Mae borrowers have the opportunity to get lower interest rates and a short cosigner release, we recommend it over Ascent. Sallie Mae is also known for almost always approving borrowers in subsequent years, which means you don’t have to wonder as much about your chances of receiving funding for next year’s studies.