In a perfect world, Sallie Mae would do the same thing its biggest competitors do: hold on to every student loan that it makes.

But unlike the No. 2 lender, Wells Fargo, Sallie Mae does not have a network of retail branches that collect deposits. Instead, it relies heavily on brokered certificates of deposit, the ‘hot money’ of the banking industry, to fund lending. As a result, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has capped growth in Sallie Mae’s balance sheet at 20% a year.

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