New Sallie Mae Book Offers Advice on How to Pay for College

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QuitAssist is a website Philip Morris offers to help you quit smoking the cigarettes that they sold you in the first place. And there’s Mohegan Sun’s Responsible Gaming hotline, which helps gambling addicts who throw their money away in those very same Mohegan Sun casinos. But these programs are free. Only Sallie Mae has the gall to offer ironic advice in a book called Sallie Mae How to Pay for College: A Practical Guide for Families — with a cover price of $19.95.

The new edition comes out Sept. 1, and if you make only one smart financial decision this year, not buying this book would be a pretty good place to start.

Seriously. What’s next? The Candy Man’s Guide to Oral Hygiene? Ron Jeremy’s Big Book of Abstinence?

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This is, after all, the student lender that uses this pitch to sell parents on the idea of cosigning loans in a blog comment, with a similar pledge in an ad on its site: “For Sallie Mae’s Smart Option Student Loan, in the tragic circumstance of the primary borrower’s death (or permanent and total disability), the remaining balance would be forgiven. According to industry experts, Sallie Mae is the first national private loan provider to offer this safeguard for private education loans. If you are considering taking out Sallie Mae’s Smart Option Student Loan, rest assured that you and your cosigner can have this peace of mind.”

Because really: What better peace of mind is there than knowing that if your child dies, you won’t have to pay back his student loans?

I’ll be pre-ordering the book so that you don’t have to, and I’m already eagerly awaiting each morsel of advice on how to ruin your life with student loans. I recently covered Sallie Mae’s obfuscatory pitch for private student loans, which advertised low interest rates but failed to adequately explain the risks associated with variable rate debt.

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For now, please always remember the first rule of personal finance: Never take advice from someone whose financial incentives are 100% at odds with yours. The cover copy for the book offers this enticement:

Insights from financial aid officers help answer such questions as How much does college really cost? Should we borrow money to pay for college?

Here’s the problem: Financial aid officers are paid to get students in the door; calling a financial aid officer to ask if you should borrow money to pay for college is stupid. It’s also dumb to ask Sallie Mae. The more you borrow for college, the more money Sallie Mae makes — and that makes their guide to paying for college absurd, even before I’ve had a chance to read it.