Parent Student Loans Survey: How Do They Affect Parents and Their Debt?

 March 13, 2018
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Three in 5 parents with children heading to college said they expect to help their kids repay student loans, according to a Discover Student Loans survey.

In fact, many parents of adult children are already doing so. Some are making payments on student loans for parents, such as Parent PLUS Loans, which they borrowed to help pay for their children’s education. Others are repaying student loans they cosigned.

But how do these student loan payments impact parents’ financial situations? Student Loan Hero recently surveyed parents who took out or cosigned loans for their children’s education to find out.

55 percent of parents have more than $40,000 in student debt

The survey collected responses from parents who are repaying student loans they borrowed to pay for a child’s education and for which they are legally responsible. These loans include both student loans for parents and student loans parents cosigned with a child.

Among the parents surveyed, total student debt is high. Here’s a breakdown of their student loan balances, including both debt they took on for their own education and student loans they used to pay for their children’s education:

  • 23 percent have more than $50,000 in student loan debt.
  • 32 percent have more than $40,000 in student loan debt.
  • 43 percent have more than $30,000 in student loan debt.

Over half (55 percent) of parents surveyed reported a combined balance of more than $40,000 between parent student loans and other student loans. This significant financial burden can hold parents back as they working toward other financial goals, such as saving for retirement.

Almost 2 in 5 parents repay student debt alone

The survey also asked parents how often their children contribute payments toward the student loans borrowed to fund their education. Here’s how they responded:

  • 39 percent — almost 2 in 5 parents — said their children never contribute to student loan repayment.
  • 20 percent said their children sometimes contribute to student loan repayment.
  • 41 percent said their children always contribute to student loan repayment.

Altogether, 59 percent of parents who cosigned student loans or borrowed parent student loans to finance a child’s college degree said they pay some or all of the student loan debt they incurred.

While parents are legally responsible for student loans they take out or cosign, many families have informal agreements about who is responsible for repaying student loans.

It’s not uncommon for parents to take out student loans for parents or cosign student loans a child agrees to repay. However, many parents ultimately are stuck repaying those student loans on their own.

Parents: Discuss a plan for your child to take over student loans

When it comes to shared student debt, parents should keep an open dialogue with the child about who is responsible for repaying it.

Perhaps a child has difficulty repaying their student loans because of low income or high costs of living. Parents can help their child find strategies to create more room in their budget to help with repayment.

Once a child can afford to take over payments, even partially, parents can work with them to make a plan for a complete takeover in the future. Perhaps the adult child can cover 25 percent of monthly payments to start and then bump up contributions until they are paying the full monthly payment amount.

Parents and their adult children also should discuss refinancing. If the child is repaying the student loans, refinancing with the right lender can change who holds the loans to reflect that fact. Some lenders, such as CommonBond, allow a child to refinance Parent PLUS Loans or private parent student loans into their own name.

A child also can refinance cosigned private student loans to remove a parent as a cosigner. Some lenders offer cosigner release, which can remove the cosigner so the primary borrower becomes the sole owner of the debt.

27 percent of parents used retirement savings to cover student loans

Among the parents surveyed, nearly 3 in 10 (27 percent) said they’d withdrawn from retirement savings to help cover student loan payments.

student loans for parents

A similar percentage of parents — 24 percent — said they’d considered using retirement savings to pay student debt.

That means student loans for parents do, in fact, harm retirement planning for parents. Plus, early withdrawals often incur costly penalties that can waste some of a parent’s retirement savings.

Even if a parent manages to replace those funds, they lose out on the time those savings could have earned gains and compounding interest.

How to boost a retirement fund’s recovery from parent student loans

Borrowers who have withdrawn from their retirement accounts to repay student loans for parents need to play catch-up to get back on track.

First and foremost, get your parent student loans under control so you can avoid any need to tap into your retirement funds in the future:

  • If you’re struggling with Parent PLUS Loans, consider applying for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan to lower your monthly payments.
  • Try refinancing student debt that’s in your name. Whether you have Parent PLUS Loans or private student loans for parents, refinancing could help you secure a lower interest rate. Refinancing also will give you control over the length and monthly amount of your repayment.
  • Step up your retirement contributions, especially in the last 10 years before you retire. Refinancing parent student loans can produce savings, which you can then contribute to retirement.

Taking out student loans for parents can set back retirement — but parents don’t regret it

parent student loansMost experts advise adults to pay down debt as they transition to retirement. Those nearing retirement age and carrying high balances on student loans for parents will have to work a lot harder to follow this advice. Plus, debt diverts money away from retirements savings.

Despite the potentially negative effects of this student debt, most parents (66 percent) don’t regret it. In fact, just 18 percent said they regret cosigning or taking out student loans for a child’s college costs.

Majority of parents don’t know their student loan repayment options

Many parents struggle with their student debt burden. But this survey also reveals that a majority of parents are unaware of options that can help.

student loans for parents

For instance, 19 percent of parents surveyed said they were unaware they could put their Parent PLUS Loans on an IDR plan — called Income-Contingent Repayment. And 12 percent didn’t know they could refinance parent student loans into their child’s name.

What’s more, almost 2 in 5 parents (19 percent) surveyed said they were unaware of Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), which can help eliminate debt for parents and students who hold government jobs or work for certain nonprofits.

Even when parents said they knew about options, they weren’t always valid. For example, 17 percent of parents said they knew about “Obama student loan forgiveness” — even though no such program exists.

Parents could be missing out on student loan refinancing

Refinancing student loans can solve a few problems at once. Borrowers can get lower student loan rates and lower monthly payments. Refinancing also can be a way to move student loans from a parent to a child (or vice versa) or remove a cosigner.

Twelve percent of parents surveyed had already refinanced student loans used for a child’s college to be solely in the parent’s name. A parent might want to refinance to take over a student loan they cosigned and are repaying because a child can’t afford to, for example. Eleven percent didn’t even know it was an option.

Parents also can refinance student debt into the child’s name. Doing so can make the child the legal owner of the loans or remove the parent as a cosigner. Here’s a breakdown of responses from parents regarding refinancing student loans into a child’s name:

  • 64 percent hadn’t considered this option.
  • 16 percent didn’t know refinancing student loans into a child’s name was an option.
  • 20 percent had considered it.

Parents who are interested in making such a move should do so soon. Interest rates are expected to increase in the coming years. Borrowers likely will get the best deals if they don’t wait to refinance student loans for parents.

Putting refinancing and interest rates into perspective, a third (36 percent) of parents said they’re either somewhat or very likely to refinance student loans. Another third said it’s unlikely to affect their decision (32 percent). The remaining third (32 percent) said they’re unsure.

Look for solutions together to repay parent student loans

Most parents who helped their children borrow for college are glad they did. But that doesn’t mitigate the potentially negative effects of student loans for parents.

When the arrangement isn’t working, parents and children need to proactively seek solutions.

The good news is parents likely have more student loan repayment options than they realize. Parents should take the time to research these options so they can create the best repayment plan for themselves and their children.

Methodology: This survey was conducted via Google Consumer Surveys on behalf of Student Loan Hero on April 5-9, 2017, with a nationally representative sample of 1,001 adults living in the United States. “Are you currently making payments on student loans you cosigned for or took out for your child(ren)’s education?” was used as a screening question (with a target answer of “yes”). The survey margin of error ranged from 4.5 to 4.8 percent.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 9 lenders of 2022!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
1.74% – 6.52%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

1.99% – 5.89%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.50% – 6.85%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

1.89% – 5.90%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

1.74% – 7.24%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

1.90% – 5.25%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

1.88% – 5.64%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit NaviRefi

1.86% – 6.01%Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Elfi

2.13% – 5.25%8Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit PenFed

Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount

The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.

To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of January 19, 2022.

2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

Interest Rate Disclosure

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 2.69% APR to 6.04% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.99% APR to 5.89% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, and using the daily interest rate based on actual days in the year and rounding up, plus a margin and will change on the 1st of each month. The rate will not increase more than once per month. The maximum rate for your loan is 8.95% if your loan term is 10 years or less. For loan terms of more than 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95%. Please note, we are not able to offer variable rate loans in AK, IL, MN, NH, OH, TN, and TX.

3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. ‍All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.

4 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

All credit products are subject to credit approval.

Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit

As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

  1. Checking your rate with Laurel Road only requires a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
  2. Savings vary based on rate and term of your existing and refinanced loan(s). Refinancing to a longer term may lower your monthly payments, but may also increase the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Refinancing to a shorter term may increase your monthly payments, but may lower the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Review your loan documentation for total cost of your refinanced loan.
  3. After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship. During any period of forbearance interest will continue to accrue. At the end of the forbearance period, any unpaid accrued interest will be capitalized and be added to the remaining principle amount of the loan.
  4. Automatic Payment (“AutoPay”) Discount: if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically from a bank account, the interest rate will decrease by 0.25% and will increase back if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically from the borrower’s bank account. The 0.25% AutoPay discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the discount is applied to the principal to help pay the loan down faster.

Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.

Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.

Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.

Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.


This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.

5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

Fixed rates range from 2.49% APR to 7.59% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Variable rates from 1.74% APR to 7.24% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law, Variable Interest rates on 5-, 7-, and 10-year terms are capped at 8.95% APR; 15- and 20-year terms are capped at 9.95% APR. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on the term you select, evaluation of your creditworthiness, income, presence of a co-signer and a variety of other factors. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. This benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit lowers your interest rate but does not change the amount of your monthly payment. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi.

6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it  endorse,  any educational institution.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 11/15/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.49% APR – 7.75% Fixed APR with AutoPay.

7 Important Disclosures for Navient.

Navient Disclosures

1. NaviRefi loans are made by Earnest Operations LLC, a member of the Navient family of companies, subject to individual approval and underwriting criteria. California residents only: Loans made or arranged pursuant to a California Finance Lenders Law license. Additional terms and conditions apply.

– To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or non-citizen permanent resident of the United States, reside in a state we lend in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Loan terms are subject to eligibility. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application. Loan approval is subject to confirmation that your debt-to-income, free cash flow, credit history and application information meet the minimum requirements. You must have a minimum FICO score to be considered.

– You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 2.75% – 6.04% APR (2.50% – 5.79% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 2.13% – 5.89% APR (1.88% – 5.64% APR with Auto Pay discount). Variable rates are based on an index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) plus a margin. Variable rates are reset monthly based on the fluctuation of the index. We do not currently offer variable rate loans in AK, CO, CT, HI, IL, KY, MA, MN, MS, NH, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA.

– You can take advantage of the 0.25% Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. NaviRefi rate ranges are current as of June 1, 2021 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

– Loan cost examples: These examples provide estimates based on payments beginning immediately upon loan disbursement. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 5.89% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,042. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 6.04% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,250. Your actual repayment terms may vary.

– The information provided on this page is updated as of 06/1/2021. Earnest Operations LLC reserves the right to modify or discontinue (in whole or in part) this loan program and its associated services and benefits at any time without notice. Check for the most up-to-date information. Terms and Conditions apply. Call 855-284-4893 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

– Earnest Operations LLC – NMLS #1204917, CA CFL #6054788 – 535 Mission St., Suite 1663, San Francisco, CA 94105.
Navient Solutions, LLC – NMLS #212430 – 123 Justison St., Wilmington, DE 19801. Visit for a full list of licensed states.

8 Important Disclosures for PenFed.

PenFed Disclosures

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.89%-4.78% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.13%-5.25% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.