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Customer Stories

Amanda S. of Galveston, Texas

Since getting my Sallie Mae loan I have graduated with my BS in Ocean and Coastal Resource from Texas A&M University at Galveston (Class of 2012 WHOOP!). I then re-enrolled as a graduate student and am now working towards obtaining my Masters in Marine Resource Management. I hold a part-time job while in school working at The Texas Coastal Watershed Program as a Graduate Student Assistant, and when I'm not in school I am allowed to work full time. After graduation I hope to find a job that uses my educational background and allows me to restore or preserve critical coastal habitats such as wetlands, estuaries, and pristine prairies. I continue to stay involved around campus and can't wait until my graduation from the Masters Program in 2014!

My Sallie Mae loan helped me graduate with my BS in Ocean and Coastal Resources with a minor in Economics. Now that I am in Graduate School at Texas A&M University studying Marine Resources Management I have another loan as well as grants and scholarships that help me pay for schooling. The scholarships I have are from The Texas Association of Environmental Professionals, and more recently I was awarded The Seaspace Inc. Scholarship which only awards 12 students every year. Now my two youngest siblings have a few years before college and we will likely turn to Sallie Mae when they need a loan as well.

Amanda’s tips:

"In order to make sure you can pay all your bills on time AND have fun, students should put away $20-$50 of each paycheck for ‘fun things’ during the month. This can be used for new clothes, movies, going out to eat, or you can save up over many months to buy something big. In order to make sure all my payments are made on time I selected automatic debit for my Sallie Mae loan interest repayment."

Shawn H. of Pennsauken, New Jersey

When I was focused on school it was a relief to have Sallie Mae there to help make my dreams come true. Since I've graduated from my first choice undergraduate college, I've completed two master's degrees and Sallie Mae has been there to help me along the way.

After undergrad, I was hired by a small company, and I then enrolled in grad school while employed. When I enrolled in graduate school, Sallie Mae automatically deferred my payments from undergrad. During my second master's, I got my dream job with a major company in my field. It was all a risk but well worth it.

When my financial aid director at Muhlenberg College explained the advantages of Sallie Mae, my parents and I turned to your company to help with funding my education. We didn't have money saved for school and I had two brothers my parents had to take care of. I focused on graduating on time to minimize expenses and lived at school for undergrad but moved home for grad school.

The payments were manageable and by postponing moving out for a couple years, we even paid in advance to lower the interest. Now I'm on my own and all debts are paid. I started in 2001 and paid off in 2013. I couldn't have done it without Sallie Mae.

Shawn's tips:

"For undergrad, try to reduce the amount needed to borrow in the beginning. Apply for scholarships and work at school. Then live at home and pay ahead whenever you can. The interest savings was significant."


Jacqueline Y. of San Francisco, California

I currently work as a trusts and estates and tax attorney, and my J.D. and Tax LL.M. degrees were essential for me to establish this career path and become financially independent.

Restraint, discipline and organization were the key factors to successfully paying off my student loans. I kept two separate checking accounts and used one account to pay daily expenses and the second account to pay my student loans and mortgage. Each time I received my paycheck, I automatically allocated to my second account the amounts needed to pay my monthly student loan and mortgage payments. Often times, the amounts I allocated exceeded the minimum monthly payments in order to accelerate the payoff. I also set an expense budget that I strictly adhered to so that I accomplished my goal of paying off my student loans by age 30.

Jacqueline's tips:

"I recommend the following: (1) Live within your means and don't be swayed by the superficial and materialistic trends; (2) Be organized and disciplined in making your monthly payments; (3) Create an expense budget to limit your spending; and (4) Set a target date earlier than the payoff deadline to pay off your student loans."

Dave M. of Silverdale, Washington

My daughter had an amazing college experience; I am quite proud of the fact that she went to a major four-year university and completed her educational requirements within four years. It is my belief that my daughter's higher education prepared her for adult life and her formal education gave her opportunities she may not have had without college.

While this was our first child who attended an institution of higher learning, we were not very prepared financially, so we used student loans. I must admit at first glance it was quite overwhelming. We explained to our daughter that she was going to be responsible for a portion of her student loans, as she was the benefactor. Once all the cards were on the table, we utilized the "snowball" approach to reducing debt, paying minimums on all outstanding debt and maximizing on one. In the beginning it seemed like a lot, but over time the debt began to diminish quickly.

It is our household's belief that if your children maintain the academic know-how to attend an institution of higher learning that there are many options available to you and your family and you should take advantage of that. We believe it is an investment in your children, it is an investment in the future, and it is an investment in your family. While clearly no two students are the same, there are opportunities for each and every one of them.

Dave's tips:

"Research scholarships, research financial aid and research institutions. There is a match out there for your child, your family and your finances."


Bridgette M. of Richland, Washington

I am currently working as a registered nurse in a cardiac unit, which required a lot of extra training before I was able to work independently. Having a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Washington University made it easier to get a job because hospitals want their employees to be highly educated. Getting my BSN taught me the value of higher education, and now I plan to further my education in the future.

I knew that I wanted to pay off my private student loans as quickly as possible and started making payments as soon as I began to make money instead of waiting until six months after graduation when my bills began to arrive. I also paid more than the minimum balance every time. I was fortunate to have supportive parents who allowed me to live with them for my first year after college. This made it possible for me to pay off approximately $20,000 in student loans within the first year. I would always try to put half of my paycheck towards my loans, and then saved as much of the rest as I could.

Bridgette's tips:

"If you can, live with your parents for your first year out of school. It will help you to save money, and even pay off a lot of your loans. Also, start looking for a job as soon as you graduate. Many new grads wait until the end of the summer to start their job search. I graduated on May 4, and got my job offer less than one month later. Most new grad RNs did not start searching for jobs until the end of summer and they all reported having more difficulty finding jobs due to increased competition."


Melissa of Cromwell, Connecticut

Melissa graduated from James Madison University with a degree in finance, and continued her studies at Quinnipiac University for law school and business school. Today, Melissa works in corporate strategy and alliance business development at a large insurance company.

Though Melissa's parents helped with some of her higher education expenses, a large portion of the cost was her responsibility. Student loans from Sallie Mae provided the funding she needed.

Melissa uses Upromise by Sallie Mae to help with her student loan payments and has saved nearly $5,0002 – money that she faithfully puts toward her student loans. Melissa offers the following advice for other borrowers:

Melissa's Tips:

Apply Any "Extra" Funds to Loan Payments

"I'm fortunate that I can put my work bonus toward student loan payments. This bonus money helps cover my minimum payments each month, even though I am on auto-debit, so now I am ahead in my payments. My goal is to have all of my Sallie Mae loans paid off in the next five years."

"Upromise is great because it helps with my loan payments. When I can, I put my travel and run all of my housing expenses through my Upromise card. I even gave my husband a Upromise card so he can put his expenses like grocery and gas on the card and help us pay down my loans faster."

Once Melissa has paid off her student loan bills, she plans to use her Upromise earnings toward her children’s education. "My plan is to help my children realize the same benefits and to do so without debt."


Christopher of Manville, New Jersey

Christopher loved his undergraduate experience at Pennsylvania State University. Since graduation, he's worked for eight years in various hospitals conducting pharmaceutical research. Christopher attributes his success to the training he received in college.

To pay for his education, Christopher took out student loans to cover a portion of the cost. He has now paid his student loans in full, accomplishing his pay off goal to have his loans paid off in 9 years.

Christopher used cash back from Upromise by Sallie Mae to help repay his student loans. When he purchased something online, he started at and earned money back. Additionally, he used the Upromise credit card to earn even more, and that money went towards his student loan balance. "I earned money through Upromise from my everyday spending. I saved about $5,000."1

Christopher's tips:


"We budgeted our monthly income and expenses, and aligned them to my goal to pay off my student loans. By using the Upromise credit card to handle monthly expenses, we were earning money when we spent."

Smaller Payments

"My advice to other borrowers who are paying their student loans is to divide the monthly repayments into smaller chunks. I had a goal to pay off my loan by July and I did."


Tammi of Bronx, New York

"Every parent who hopes to send his or her child to college needs to start planning and saving for their future higher education as early as possible," says Tammi. One of Tammi's favorite college savings tools is Upromise by Sallie Mae.

"I joined Upromise to earn extra cash on online and grocery purchases to put towards my 529 plan for my daughter. I've saved about $8001 so far for her future college education."

Tammi's Tips:

Start Saving Early

"I would advise everyone, especially those with young children, to use Upromise so that they can begin saving money for their children's future. It's quick and simple. It's a win-win."

Meagan of North Texas

Meagan will be the first to tell you that a college degree is well worth its value. Meagan attended Austin College, a small liberal arts school in North Texas, and graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science and sociology and a minor in Asian studies.

Meagan says that while she was fortunate to receive an academic scholarship, it was not enough to cover all of her tuition and fees. To fill the gap, she turned to student loans. After working hard and graduating from college in just three years, Meagan moved to Japan for one year to teach English. She then returned to the United States to the University of North Texas, where she received her master's degree in political science. Today, Meagan is a senior editor of the American Political Science Review.

Meagan's tips:

Make Payments in School

"Something that really helped me was paying interest while I was in school. Most students don't have hundreds of extra dollars a month to make full payments on student loans, but they can afford to send an extra $10-$15 a month. For many students, that is one movie or meal out a month so it is manageable. This can keep interest from increasing your overall loan total."

Use Automatic Payment

"I took advantage of automatic payments, which qualified me for an interest rate reduction on my Sallie Mae loan. Using the auto pay was a no-brainer. I set up the payment and let my bank do the work for me."

Don't Borrow More Than You Need

"Checking your loan balance on a regular basis while you are in school is a good idea because it helps you understand how much you owe."

Meagan also uses money she's accumulated through Upromise by Sallie Mae to help pay down her student loan.

"The biggest key for repaying my student loans has been automating the process. Every time I accumulate enough, and extra payment to my student loan is made. I know that once every month Upromise will make what I like to call a 'bonus' payment for me. It only takes minutes to set up automatic monthly payments, join Upromise and set up direct transfers to Sallie Mae. I would encourage any graduate to do the same," she says.


Janet of Erie, Pennsylvania

Janet says her education from West Virginia University has given her many benefits, including a well-paying career that she loves. She wants the same quality of life for her children, and she's committed to planning for their college educations while they are young.

Janet uses a 529 college savings plan and Upromise by Sallie Mae to help save for her children's college education, and Upromise helps pay down her student loans.

"As a Upromise member, I use Upromise Loan Link to automatically transfer money from my Upromise account directly to help pay down my Sallie Mae student loans. I am always sharing my success with Upromise with my friends, family and colleagues."

Janet's tips:

Set a Goal

"I always pay more than the minimum due on my student loans and I make sure that the amount is paid before the due date. My goal was to pay them off before my daughter went to college. It was paid off in February, and my daughter began her freshman year in college the next fall."


Small Amounts Can Add Up

Mary H. of Denver, Col. has been a Upromise by Sallie Mae member for 11 years. She opened the account when her daughter was just a baby. “My primary reason for using Upromise is easy college savings for our daughter,” Mary says. “She’s in sixth grade now, and we’ve been saving since she was born.”

Nearly all of Mary’s earnings come from online shopping. When she first found out about Upromise, she signed up for the Upromise credit card to accelerate their savings. They also have two 529 college savings accounts; one is linked to her Upromise account. The second 529 account was opened several years later when Mary’s in-laws wanted to begin gifting for their granddaughter’s future college needs. “Between the two 529 accounts, we have saved nearly enough for a college education,” Mary says. “More than $5,600 of that came from Upromise1.”

Mary says the primary benefit is how easy it is to save with Upromise. “Small amounts can add up over time and without a great deal of effort,” Mary says. “It's like getting paid to shop for the things we're already buying.”


Several Kids Require Several Savings Vehicles

Alicia G. of San Diego, Calif. says her primary reason for Upromise by Sallie Mae is saving for her children's college education. She has three children, the oldest and youngest are 11 years apart in age.

“I have an 11 year old in fifth grade, an 8 year old in second grade, and a 4 month old,” says Alicia. She usually gets cash for college through by shopping online, and she has saved almost $12,0002.

“Upromise is so great when you’re saving for college because you buy things you would normally buy anyway, but by buying things through the Upromise website it is like getting automatic savings towards college! It is great!”


Planned for Children's Higher Education Before They Were Born

Ellen K. and her husband Marty of Indianapolis, Ind., put a game plan in place long before their children – a daughter (pictured) who’s now a sophomore at Indiana University and a son who’s a junior in high school – were even born.

"Giving the gift of education to our children is something that they will have for a lifetime," she says. One of the many tools that the family uses to help them plan for their children’s college education is Sallie Mae’s Designed as a one-stop saving, planning and paying for college destination, the site helps families and students navigate their college journey with information and free, easy-to-use tools.

"College Answer is an excellent college-planning resource. I was able to find exactly what I needed quickly and easily," says Ellen. "Paying for college isn’t easy, but higher education is important to my husband and me. We’re both college graduates and currently working in our chosen careers. We speak openly to our children about finding a career that excites them and that makes them want to get up in the morning. Discovering their passion will allow them to be a productive part of society, as well as bring happiness to their lives."

To save, they’ve made personal sacrifices in their day-to-day lives. "I drive an old car; my husband and I don't go on fancy vacations, because we want our children to graduate college with no debt," Ellen explains.

"It’s always been our goal to pay for both children’s undergraduate degrees," says Ellen. "We started saving before they were born. I know that sounds crazy, but my dad taught me about the value of investing. Neither my husband nor I make a lot of money, but we save every month. We contribute to an Indiana 529 Plan to get the state tax credit, and we planned ahead of time on how we would pay for each child's four years of in-state schooling."

By doing so, Ellen and her husband are setting a personal example for their children about the value of higher education and the personal and professional rewards it can bring throughout their lives.


Passing Down the Importance of College From One Generation to Another

Anais H., 49, immigrated to the United States from Cuba in 1972. As a young girl, she believed that higher education offered a chance for a better future. “My family came here with nothing. My mother had a sixth-grade education,” says Anais. “She pushed me to get as much education as possible because it’s something that can never be taken away from you.”

Anais began college in 1982 at Nova Southeastern University, but put her education on hold after two years to work full time as a phone technician at AT&T. Two children and a divorce later, Anais returned to the university to complete her bachelor’s degree. With the help of a private loan from Sallie Mae, she received her master’s degree in business in 1996.

“It’s because of my mother that I finished my degree. She watched my two boys, Derek and Tyler, during school. I could not have accomplished it otherwise,” Anais says. Anais realized another accomplishment in 2004, when she paid off her Sallie Mae loans.

“I began making larger payments to pay the balance more quickly. It’s another dream fulfilled,” she says. Anais’ two sons – Derek, 21, and Tyler, 20 – are now pursuing their college dreams. Derek attends Florida International University, while Tyler is enrolled at Broward College. A Sallie Mae Smart Option Student Loan supplements federal loans to help Derek pay for his education.

Anais, a cosigner on Derek’s Smart Option loan, calls it a “financial lifesaver,” adding that she elected to pay the accruing interest while Derek is in school, and occasionally makes larger payments to help pay down the loan faster.

Her sons’ college aspirations reiterate the beliefs that Anais’ mother once instilled in her. “My mother framed my college diploma and hung it by our front door. It is still there today,” Anais says, “and I’ll do the same when my sons graduate.”


Balancing Full-Time Work with Part-Time Grad Classes

Alison R., 30, always knew that college was in her future. Her journey took longer than expected because Alison paid her own way and, in 2005, the hard work paid off when she graduated from Penn State University with a bachelor’s degree in marketing management.

Alison is still at it, working toward a master’s degree in information systems at Widener University. The decision to continue her higher education was an easy one, she says, because it could help further her career.

What proved a challenge for Alison was finding the money to pay for her graduate degree. She works at ING Direct and takes classes part time. “It’s challenging to work full time and go to college. The Sallie Mae Smart Option Student Loan helped me tremendously because there was no way that I could pay for a master’s degree on my own,” Alison says.

Alison takes advantage of the Smart Option loan’s $25 fixed repayment option3 in which customers pay a flat $25 a month while they are in school. “It’s a good way to budget and reduce my total loan costs all at once,” says Alison.

Alison is a staunch advocate of using the Upromise by Sallie Mae program as a way to help defray college costs. She joined the program as an undergraduate student, linking her Upromise earnings to a Sallie Mae High-Yield Savings Account that she taps for college-related expenses. Alison expects to graduate from Widener University this year. When she receives her degree, she can proudly say that she did it “her way.”

“A college degree is the foundation for a better life. With a degree, you’re more likely to get where you want to go,” Alison says.


Start Smart Money Habits Early

Budgets and crunching numbers are familiar territory to Matthew E. Growing up in Baltimore, Md., Matthew's mother and CPA father instilled in him an appreciation for living within your means and the importance of managing money wisely.

Matthew, 26, chose the University of Baltimore to begin his college journey, where he used loans from Sallie Mae to pay for his education. In 2009, he graduated with a degree in business management, and now has a good job with a not-for-profit organization.

With his career on track, Matthew has assumed several real-world responsibilities – and that includes managing his money for the first time and making payments on his student loans. Thanks to the financial lessons he learned as a child, along with a strong personal work ethic, Matthew is making tremendous strides. Already, he's paid off a $2,500 Sallie Mae loan one year after entering repayment.

"The easiest way to pay back your student loans is to create a budget and stick to it” he says. “Every time I get a paycheck from work, I make a payment, and these payments are always for more than the minimum amount that's due.” By paying more than the minimum balance due, Matthew significantly lowered the interest paid over the life of his loans. That repayment strategy "translated into huge savings," Matthew says.

"Because I paid so much in advance, if something happened where I lost my job, I would have a built-in financial buffer," he adds. Matthew encourages customers to manage their accounts online so they can make and track payments, and educate themselves about college financing and managing money.

"The money habits you establish after college will play a key role in your future,” Matthew says.

1 This is an active Upromise member. Individual earnings vary depending on spending habits and level of engagement in Upromise. Includes earnings with Upromise online partners and the Upromise credit card.

2 This is an active Upromise member. Individual earnings vary depending on spending habits and level of engagement in Upromise. Includes earnings with Upromise online and offline partners and the Upromise credit card.

3 This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms available to a graduate borrower who elects the Fixed Repayment Option and has a $10,000.00 loan with two disbursements and a 7.12% variable APR: 27 payments of $25 per month, 59 payments of $216.41 per month, and one payment of $200.75, for a total paid of $13,643.94. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
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