The Important Difference Between Sallie Mae and Navient

Navient and Sallie Mae are two student loan servicers that are often confused as one. Although Sallie Mae launched Navient, the two companies function as distinct and separate entities. Sallie Mae focuses on private student loans, while Navient services federal student loans as well as private loans.

Since the two companies are focused on different types of student loans, it is important to find out more about Navient and Sallie Mae and which company services your debt.

The connection between Sallie Mae and Navient
What does Sallie Mae do?
What does Navient do?
How the transition from Sallie Mae to Navient affects borrowers
Finding your student loan servicer
The bottom line: Sallie Mae vs. Navient

The connection between Sallie Mae and Navient

For years, Sallie Mae, one of the most well-known student loan companies, also managed federal student loans. Then, in 2010, the government passed new legislation that ended the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), with the Education Department expanding its direct lending as a replacement. These changes caused Sallie Mae to change its business model.

In 2014, Sallie Mae announced the launch of an offshoot company called Navient. Sallie Mae split its business into two separate, publicly traded entities. Sallie Mae would handle the disbursement and management of private loans, and Navient, formerly a part of Sallie Mae, would become a new loan management and servicing company for federal loans as well as private loans.

What does Sallie Mae do?

If you’re going to school, federal loans are typically the first place you turn for help with paying your tuition and expenses. But if you exhaust federal loan options or are looking for different repayment terms, private loans can be a helpful option to fill in the gap and help you pay for your education.

Sallie Mae is a student loan company that has been providing loans for over 40 years. The company offers private undergraduate, graduate and career training loans to qualified individuals. Eligible borrowers can receive loans to cover up to 100% of their educational costs.

What does Navient do?

Navient, which operates independently from Sallie Mae, focuses on the enhancement of its customers’ financial success. In addition to servicing federal student loans, Navient is known for consumer lending and business processing solutions. It also offers private student loan servicing.

With Navient, people with federal loans have access to federal benefits like income-driven repayment plans, deferment or forbearance. Qualifying individuals can sign up for income-driven repayment plans such as Income-Based Repayment (IBR), Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR), Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) plans. If you lose your job or go through a financial hardship, you can defer your payments or put them into forbearance, which allows you to postpone your payments without racking up late fees or entering into collection.

How the transition from Sallie Mae to Navient affects borrowers

Some people had both Sallie Mae and Navient as their servicers for the same loans. If you took out federal student loans prior to 2014, you may have originally taken them out from Sallie Mae.

But as of October 13, 2014, Sallie Mae shifted all federal loans to Navient. That switch did not affect borrowers’ loan terms or repayment options, but it still confused some customers who missed the original memo.

It’s not an uncommon practice for your loan servicer to change in the middle of your repayment term. If you miss the notification about the change, you could log into your account one day to find your debt missing. But don’t get excited — that doesn’t mean your loans went away. They just went to a new company.

Finding your student loan servicer

If you’re not sure who your loan servicer is or if you can’t figure out if it’s Sallie Mae or Navient, you have a couple of options to track down your student loan servicer:

  • Check the National Student Loan Data System. One of the best resources to check is the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). This database tracks your federal student loans and stores all of your information in one place, so you can access it whenever you need.

To find your loans, click on “Financial Aid Review.” The site will ask you to log in with your username or Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. Users without an account can simply create one to gain access to their loan information. Once you log into the system, it will break down what types of loans you have, what your loan balance is and who your loan servicer is for each one.

  • Check your credit report. If you have private loans or your loans are not showing up on NSLDS, you can also find your servicer by checking your credit report. You can get a free credit report at, which will list all your debts and the banks and companies that service the loans.

If you find out that your loans are with Navient, Sallie’s Mae’s offshoot company, you can manage your loans, make payments and apply for repayment options directly on the Navient website. This will require you to register for an account using personal information, including your Social Security Number, email address and phone number.

The bottom line: Sallie Mae vs. Navient

Knowing your servicer is essential in handling your student loan debt. Sallie Mae and Navient are frequently confused with one another, but they are separate and distinct companies, so it’s important to know which company you are working with before making payments.

For more information about managing your loans and paying them off faster, check out our guide to paying off student loans.

Kristina Byas contributed to this report.

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