(Fixes typo in Jacobson's first name in paragraph 1 and corrects upper range of valuation to $25 in paragraph 2)
NEW YORK May 26 (Reuters) - Shares of Sallie Mae SLM.N, a specialty lender to students, rose on Wednesday after high profile investor Jonathon Jacobson valued the company 50 percent to nearly 100 percent higher than its current value.
In his first presentation before the 15th Annual Ira Sohn Investment Research Conference, Jacobson said Sallie Mae was worth between $15 and $25 a share.
"Critics would have you believe that without FFELP (Federal Family Education Loan Program) the prospects for Sallie Mae are bleak. I disagree. On a go-forward basis, Sallie Mae will provide very attractive returns," said Jacobson, who made a rare public appearance.
FFELP is the private sector student loan program that makes higher education affordable and accessible for millions of students and their families.
Sallie Mae's stock closed up 5.49 percent at $10.96, with the move higher accelerating shortly after he spoke.
The Sohn conference attracts some of the biggest and best-known hedge fund managers who share investment and short-selling ideas with an audience of some 1,200 hedge fund executives.
The conference raises millions of dollars for pediatric cancer research, but its high wattage speaker list also moves stocks.
TEPPER ON BANKS
Another high profile speaker at the conference came out in favor of banks, foreign and domestic.
David Tepper, of Appaloosa Investment LP, the world's best-paid hedge fund manager last year, said he still likes Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) and Spain's Banco Santander SA (SAN.MC).
Tepper said he liked Bank of America for its management and more than ample opportunities to offset future credit losses.
As for Santander, he said the company's stock has the potential to more than double. Santander's shares closed down 0.62 percent at 8.121 euros on Wednesday. Bank of America's shares lost 0.13 percent to $15.47 a share.
Tepper said that at the beginning of the month Appaloosa was a $14 billion hedge fund but is now $13 billion.
"But what the hell. What are you going to do?" he said. (Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Herbert Lash; Writing by Daniel Bases; Editing by Kenneth Barry)