HANOVER TWP. — As the number of students attending college has grown and the way those students attain financial aid has changed, student loan provider Sallie Mae has been able to adapt and evolve over its four decades in business. On Monday, company officials and some of its longest-tenured employees marked the firm’s 40th anniversary.
When Sallie Mae, formally known as SLM Corp., opened its doors May 13, 1973, in Washington, D.C., as a government-sponsored start-up it had just seven employees. Today, Sallie Mae has grown to become the nation’s largest financial services company specializing in education with more than 7,000 employees, including 900 locally.
The growth meant the need for loan servicing and call centers to open nationwide. Sallie Mae began operations in 1987 at the former Faith Shoe factory on Beekman Street in South Wilkes-Barre with 21,000 square feet of space and at the end of its first year of operations, there were 48 employees at the center who serviced 53,000 accounts. Today Sallie Mae handles 3.2 million accounts company wide.
The Wilkes-Barre employees relocated to a newly built center in the Hanover Industrial Estates in 1990 and its workforce grew to 350.
Today Sallie Mae employs 900 people at its center in Hanover Township and is looking to add to that total.
Lisa Stashik, vice president and center head for Sallie Mae’s Hanover Township location, noted that every single loan payment made by check is mailed to the Hanover Township facility. And as more loans are originated and more offerings are provided by the company, the growth of jobs is there.
She has been with the company since 1988 and said the company continues to stick with its original vision of making sure families have access to money to pay for higher education.
As the company has grown, it’s also changed from an entity processing government-originated loans to one that now originates its own private loans. SLM Corp. is a publicly held, private-sector corporation, governed by a board elected by shareholders. The company began privatizing its operations in 1997 and completed that change by the end of 2004.
In 2009, Sallie Mae began to service federal loans on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education. After the federal government ended the Federal Family Education Loan Program in 2010, it eliminated subsidies paid to private lenders and banks that originated loans for college students in 2010.
Sallie Mae refocused its business to emphasize its consumer lending and business services segments. In the transition, its private-loan originations increased. The company and its subsidiaries manage or service $234 billion in education loans and administer $38 billion in 529 college savings plans.
In addition, it has also expanded by acquiring and enhancing its own offerings.
• In 2006, Sallie Mae acquired Upromise and Upromise Investments, which allows people who sign up to pay off their student loan by making purchases of select products. To date, Americans have earned nearly $750 million in Upromise rewards to boost their college savings accounts, the company says.
• And, in 2011, Sallie Mae expanded its college savings initiatives with retail banking products — high-yield savings accounts and CDs through Sallie Mae Bank.
The company, now headquartered in Newark, Del., has 17 locations nationwide, although though the Hanover Township center is the second largest in terms of employees.
When workers arrived Monday in the Hanover Township center, they were greeted by 900 cupcakes, each with the number “40” written with icing onto the frosting.
Stashik, a Shickshinny native, said the region’s work ethic was responsible for Sallie Mae locating here in 1987 and has helped keep this branch open while some others have closed.