How the NEA Student Loan Program Can Help You Cover College Costs

With special member-only perks, the NEA Smart Option Student Loan from Sallie Mae can help you reach your goals.

Mother and Daughter Happily Approaching College Dorm

by NEA Member Benefits


Scholarships and federal aid aren’t always enough for covering the costs of higher education. As an NEA member, you have access to the NEA® Smart Option Student Loan® by Sallie Mae®, which helps members and their families pay for continuing education, undergraduate or graduate college expenses that aren’t covered by scholarships, grants or federal loans.

Here’s how the NEA Member Benefits partnership with Sallie Mae supports your unique needs as an educator.

Why did we partner with Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae® is the nation’s saving, planning and paying for college company and market leader for private education loans. For 43 years, Sallie Mae has helped more than 34 million Americans pay for college. There is no single way to achieve this task, so Sallie Mae provides a range of products to help families, whether college is a long way off or right around the corner.

In addition to private education loans, the company offers products and resources that promote responsible personal finance, including college financial planning tools such as Scholarship Search, the College Planning Calculator, online retail banking and Upromise rewards.

What benefits does Sallie Mae offer specifically to NEA members?

NEA members are eligible for all benefits associated with Sallie Mae’s Smart Option Student Loan®, including free quarterly access to their FICO® Credit Scores and other benefits described here.

Sallie Mae also offers NEA members an exclusive rate reduction.* With this benefit, NEA members are eligible for an interest rate reduction of 0.25 percentage points after making 12 consecutive on-time payments. Make sure you get the rate reduction by signing into and applying here.

Can the NEA Student Loan be used for continuing education?

Yes! You don’t have to pursue a degree to be eligible. You simply need to attend a degree-granting institution. This means you can take continuing education courses and still qualify for Sallie Mae financing.

What does “gap financing” mean?

When it comes to paying for college, Sallie Mae recommends following its 1-2-3 approach:

  1. Explore federal student loans. Apply by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
  2. Consider a responsible private education loan. Fill the gap between your available resources and the cost of college.
  3. Start with money you won’t have to repay. Supplement your college savings and income by maximizing scholarships, grants and work-study.

The gap is the dollar-amount difference between the full cost of college (including tuition, room and board, books and supplies, transportation and other living expenses), and the portion of the cost that students and families are able to cover from resources available to them, including grants, scholarships, work-study programs, federal student loans and their own savings and investments.

The NEA Student Loan can help bridge, or finance, this gap.

What are the repayment options? Does Sallie Mae offer flexibility or assistance if a student has trouble with repayment?

In addition to offering multiple repayment options, Sallie Mae offers a variety of free online tips, tools and resources to help students and families explore options for saving, planning and paying for college (see educational resources section below).

If you are having difficulty making monthly payments, Sallie Mae will work one-on-one with a student to assess repayment options. We encourage students to contact Sallie Mae at 800-4-SALLIE (800-472-5543) directly to discuss what options may be available.

What educational resources does Salle Mae offer?

Sallie Mae offers a variety of free, online tips, tools and resources that students and families can use to help them save, plan and pay for college, including the College Planning Toolbox, which features:

  • A College Planning CalculatorSM students and families can use to build customized plans based on their individual situations, whether college is a long way off or just around the corner.
  • Checklists, budget worksheets and calculators that estimate college costs and student loan payment amounts.
  • Scholarship Search by Sallie Mae®, which offers access to more than 5 million scholarships worth nearly $24 billion.
  • The College AheadSM Mobile App, an interactive experience that takes high school juniors and seniors on a step-by-step journey to college.

In addition, the Plan for College section of provides detailed information on the following:

  • How to develop and maintain a college savings plan.
  • Descriptions of different types of college savings plans.
  • Descriptions of different types of financial aid.
  • Descriptions of different types of student loans.

For more tips about paying back student loans, a great place to start is the Managing Your Loans section of the Sallie Mae website.

In addition to these resources, Sallie Mae conducts research each year with Ipsos, an independent global market research company, and publishes two major studies: How America Saves for College, and How America Pays for College, each of which contains a wealth of information.


* This benefit applies only if the loan is current and after the NEA member pays the Current Amount Due by the Current Amount Due Date each month during the initial 12 months of principal and interest repayment. If the NEA member misses or is late with any of the initial 12 payments, the benefit will not be earned. If the NEA member earns the benefit and then misses any payment, the benefit will be suspended until after the NEA member brings the loan current and pays the Current Amount Due by the Current Amount Due Date for three consecutive months. The benefit is suspended during periods of forbearances and certain deferments.

Student loan solutions for NEA members