Where to Find Student Loans Without Cosigner Requirements

 March 16, 2021
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student loans no cosigner

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Private Student Loan rates starting at 2.49% APR

2.49% to 13.85% 1

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2.55% to 11.44% 2

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  • Variable APR

Note that the government has paused all repayment on federally held student loans through the end of 2022, with no interest to be charged during that period and no loans to be held delinquent or in default.

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Student loans without cosigner requirements allow you to afford your education without relying on a parent, guardian or another creditworthy individual. They may consider additional information, such as your academic achievements and postgraduate prospects, when determining your qualifications.

Whether you’re an independent student or a dependent student who needs parental financial information on their paperwork, the good news is that you can easily obtain federal student loans without cosigner obligations. Unfortunately, though, private student loans without cosigner backing are harder to come by, particularly for undergraduates with thin credit histories.

Below, we list reputable private student loans without cosigner requirements — though if you are wondering how to get a student loan without a cosigner listed on your application, consider your federal options first.

How to get a student loan without a cosigner

When you take out student loans, there are two primary options available: Federal loans and private loans. As you’ll see below, undergraduates never need a cosigner to get federal student loans, while those pursuing a graduate or professional degree could apply with one to secure supplementary grad PLUS loans. However, this can be trickier when it comes to private student debt.

Federal loans should usually be the first choice as you decide how to take out a student loan, as their repayment plans provide a great deal more flexibility. That flexibility includes options such as income-driven repayment plans, forbearance and deferment, as well as federal forgiveness programs.

The vast majority of loans are federal loans, with MeasureOne reporting that private loans accounted for approximately $139 billion of the $1.7 trillion student loan market by September 2020.

Private student loans, on the other hand, don’t generally offer these same benefits. While some private student loan lenders offer hardship options for those who experience unemployment or similar financial emergencies, these options vary per lender. That’s why you should typically only use private student loans to supplement your education costs, not as a first choice.

Top lenders offering private student loans without cosigner requirements

Stated eligibility criteria Note that …
Ascent Two years of credit history, $24,000 minimum income If you don’t meet those requirements, you could still qualify for an Ascent income-share agreement-like loan
Citizens Bank Good credit, no prior student loan default Noncitizens and non-permanent residents have to find a cosigner
College Ave Credit score of 660 or above If you’re unsure if you can qualify on your own, try the lender’s prequalification tool
Earnest Credit score of at least 650, annual income of $35,000-plus and three years of credit history Noncitizen students without permanent resident status (who have a Social Security number) are eligible with a cosigner
Education Loan Finance Credit score of at least 680, annual income of $35,000-plus and three years of credit history ELFI has a minimum loan amount of $10,000
Funding University GPA and school graduate rates vary by your year in the degree program Your academic success, job experience and projected postgraduate income determine the fate of your loan application
MPower Financing Attend a degree program in the U.S. or Canada and be within two years of graduation Your future earning potential, not your credit score, is used to determine your eligibility
PNC “Satisfactory” credit, meet unspecified debt-to-income criteria Students must be citizens or permanent residents living in the U.S. for at least two years, enrolled at least half time; cosigner required for 17-year-olds
Prodigy Finance</a Attend an eligible graduate school in an eligible state International students and American students studying abroad are eligible to borrow
SoFi Good credit Half-time enrollment is required for all SoFi loans

None of these loans charge application fees, which means you could apply to multiple loan companies without incurring a high cost. If you do, make sure to do so in a short period — rate shopping will have less of an impact on your credit score if you keep it between 14 to 45 days.

Federal student loans without cosigner requirements

The first step to getting federal student loans is the same for everyone: Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

To do this, you’ll need cooperation from your parents if you’re a dependent.

When your parents help to fill out the FAFSA, all it means is that your parents’ income will be taken into consideration when deciding how much federal student aid you qualify for — it doesn’t mean you’d be ineligible for student loans without cosigner assistance.

Keep in mind that “aid” means two things in this context: Student loans (which you’ll have to pay back) and grants (which you won’t have to pay back).

Still, if you don’t want to include your parents’ information on the FAFSA, see if you’re eligible to declare independent student status; you can do this through your college’s financial aid office. This status will allow you to fill out the FAFSA using your information, not your family’s.

Independent student qualification criteria
● Age 24 or older
● Married or separated
● Pursuing a master’s or professional degree
● Parent who’s financially supporting children
● Active member (or veteran) of the military
● Product of the foster care system
● Emancipated minor
● Homelessness or risk thereof

Once the FAFSA is complete, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report several days to several weeks later. This sums up the information you filled out on your forms — double-check and make sure all the information on the report is correct.

After that, you’ll receive an award letter (electronically or by mail) from your school telling you how much aid you qualify for. When exactly this happens varies per school.

If you qualify for loans in your name, your parents aren’t obligated to repay your federal loans, even when their income is included in your FAFSA. They can, however, take out parent PLUS loans, which will be their responsibility to pay back.

Types of federal loans

There are three types of federal loans you could get without a parent cosigner. The Department of Education lists options that require neither a credit check nor a cosigner, including:

  • Direct subsidized loans. Undergraduates can obtain these loans to pay for a career school or college. Students must demonstrate financial need.
  • Direct unsubsidized loans. These loans — also called unsubsidized Stafford loans — are available to undergraduates, graduate students and professional students. Showing financial need is not required.
  • Direct PLUS loans. These loans are available only to graduate or professional students. While parents of undergraduates can take parent PLUS loans, undergraduate students do not qualify for PLUS loans.

If the amount you’ve qualified for is not enough to cover your tuition, that’s where private student loans come into play.

Private student loans without cosigner support

Private student loans don’t require a FAFSA form, but rather individual applications for each lender you’re interested in borrowing from. There’s also wide variation when it comes to cosigner policy.

If you’re a student with limited or no income and credit history, it’ll likely be difficult to get private student loans without your parent’s help. Some lenders allow students to apply on their own before attaching a cosigner to their application, if necessary. Other lenders, such as CommonBond, require cosigners to be included initially.

Getting private student loans without cosigner requirements can be easier said than done.

However, having a steady source of income and a healthy credit score is a great start. You can improve your credit score and report by always making debt payments on time, whether that’s clearing your credit card balance each month or paying what’s due on an auto loan. Missing even one payment could harm your credit score significantly.

What’s the credit score needed for student loans without a cosigner?
To qualify: A credit score in the mid-600s will usually get you in the door.
To get the best rates: A score of around 720 or higher unlocks the most savings.

As a new college student, you probably haven’t had time to build up your credit. It doesn’t mean it can’t be done — but it might mean delaying your education if you have no other way to pay for school.

You may also have other options if any of your family members are willing to help out. Keep in mind that banks, credit unions and online lenders may not require your cosigner to be a parent — you could gain approval by leaning on a supportive sibling, or an aunt or uncle, for example.

But if you can’t find a cosigner, there’s still hope: There are ways to start building credit now so you can become eligible for private student loans without a cosigner as fast as possible.

When it’s wise to take out student loans without a cosigner (and when it’s not)

Count financial independence among the pros and cons of forgoing a cosigner. In fact, it’s both a pro and a con.

Pro Con
You’re taking full responsibility for your student loan debt and not leaning on parents or other family, lessening the risk to their retirement planning. You might forgo important benefits, such as financial support in the case of a job loss or another unforeseen event while you’re in repayment.

To review whether student loans without cosigner requirements are right for you, see if you relate to one of these three scenarios.

1. Unwise — An underclassman who’s new to student loans

You’re probably already familiar with financial aid that doesn’t need to be repaid, like scholarships. But if you’re relatively new to the college experience, some financing tools might still seem foreign.

A loan could help you bridge the gap between your cost of attendance and the amount you’ve been able to raise through gift aid and help from your family.

Taking out a private student loan without cosigner requirements would likely be unwise in your case. This is because federal loans, which almost always don’t require a cosigner, come with added protections. You can pause your loan repayment, switch repayment plans and potentially qualify for student loan forgiveness, to name a few examples.

So if you haven’t borrowed money for your education yet but need to shortly, it’s likely wiser to go the federal route first. There are different maximum borrowing amounts depending on your dependency status and your year in school. A dependent freshman, for example, would be eligible to receive $5,500 in direct loans.

2. Wise — A financially independent student headed for a high-paying career

Maybe an unstable home environment forced you to become an adult sooner than your peers; perhaps you’re returning to campus to transition between careers. No matter how you achieved financial independence, it might be wise to consider a private student loan without cosigner requirements.

But being independent isn’t enough. Having a strong credit history and debt-to-income ratio could help you score a low interest rate, even without a cosigner — just ensure you can receive a lower rate than with federal loans.

An undergraduate applying for the government’s direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans would be handed a 2.75% interest rate up until July 1, 2021. However, many of our recommended private student loans start their variable interest rates below 1.50%, at least as of February 2021.

Still, be aware that even top private lenders can’t match many of the protections offered by the federal government. That’s where your major or career path might come into play. A degree in one of the majors with the highest ROI might be less likely to lead to federal loan forgiveness — unless you plan on teaching or working for the government.

3. Unwise — An upperclassman without an obvious cosigner

If you’re an in-school borrower edging closer to your degree, you might need some extra help to get over the hump.

It’s possible you already borrowed the maximum federal loan allotment — that’s $31,000 over your college career if you’re a dependent student. It would grow to $57,500 if you’re an independent student or have a parent who is unable to qualify for a Parent PLUS Loan.

If your parent(s) may not be creditworthy enough to borrow a PLUS loan in their name(s), they might also fall short of being your cosigner on a private loan. But don’t jump straight to private student loans without cosigner requirements.

Because a cosigner can help you secure better loan terms, explore ways to find a cosigner who’s not your parent. You might check another branch of your family tree — an aunt, uncle or grandparent who’s already made it financially might be willing to go to bat for you.

Lenders also typically don’t mind if you’re not related to your cosigner. Whether you find a friend, mentor or someone else to stand in, you’d just need to ensure they’re eligible.

How to continue your education when you can’t afford full-time tuition

Delaying your education might not be an option for you. If you can’t figure out how to get a student loan without a cosigner, check out a few options to get the ball rolling on your education while you work to build credit:

  • Find a full-time job and take one or two night classes. You can earn credits and increase your income, which will help you get approved for private student loans without a cosigner.
  • Find a part-time or full-time job with a company that offers tuition reimbursement. You can earn money and credits, as well as tuition money you won’t have to repay.
  • Consider attending a lower-cost school. Enrolling in a community college or staying closer to home could decrease expenses for tuition, as well as room and board.
  • Contact your school’s financial aid office about work-study programs and other opportunities. These programs enable students to work for money that will go toward their tuition.
  • Exhaust every scholarship opportunity you can think of. This includes not only academic scholarships, but also those based on your specific interests, talents, heritage and even area of study.

If you’ve already begun your education and currently owe student loans, you might be tempted to take a gap year — but don’t underestimate that delaying your education could make it more difficult to return.

In a 2019 survey of recent graduates, 1 in 5 respondents told Student Loan Hero that their education debt hindered their goal to return to school. That partly explains why 46% said they regretted how much student loan debt they had accrued. So whether you borrow student loans with or without a cosigner, limiting the amount will put your personal finances in a better position.

FAQs: How to get student loans without cosigner support

If you’re intent on borrowing student loans without a cosigner, consider the following frequently asked questions:

What student loans can you get without a cosigner?

As mentioned above, federal student loans generally don’t require a cosigner. If you’re a parent or graduate student attempting to borrow a federal PLUS Loan, however, you might need to find an endorser if you’re found to have adverse credit history.

On the private loan front, it’s possible to get student loans without a cosigner, but you’ll need solid credit and a good debt-to-income (DTI) ratio to qualify on your own.

Does Sallie Mae require a cosigner for student loans?

The popular and longstanding lender Sallie Mae is among those companies that don’t require you to apply with a cosigner. With that said, it’s highly recommended. Sallie Mae contends on its website that you’re about four times more likely to be approved with cosigner support. Also, 88% of its new undergraduate borrowers apply with a cosigner.

Fortunately, many private lenders operate this way, leaving open the possibility for creditworthy individuals to get funding when they don’t have a cosigner.

Do student loans without a cosigner have higher interest rates?

The better your credit, the lower the rate you could secure from a student loan lender. So, if you have better credit (and other financial characteristics) than your potential cosigner, you may be able to access the same low rate on your own. In fact, you might even be able to get a lower rate.

However, teen and 20-something students generally don’t have as much credit history (or income) as their parents or other older adults. That’s why student loans with a cosigner generally carry lower rates than loans without one.

Andrew Pentis and Shannon Insler contributed to this report.

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