Paying for college isn’t easy. The typical cost for a single year of schooling at a public college was $9,650 for the 2016-2017 school year. Since most can’t afford this steep cost out-of-pocket, many students turn to federal aid, scholarships, and federal loans. But it’s not always enough. Sometimes they need private student loans to help cover the gap. However, many don’t have the credit to qualify on their own.
Since private student loans take factors such as income, assets, and proof of a stable job into consideration, many young students may not be eligible on their own. This means they won’t be able to get student loans without a cosigner. Often that burden falls on the parent.
While you may be eager to help finance your child’s education, there are some things to consider before cosigning their student loan.
1. You’re on the hook if they don’t pay
It might seem pretty innocuous signing your name on loan for your child, but it can have some serious consequences for you if they don’t pay.
“A cosigner is a co-borrower, equally obligated to repay the debt,” said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of PrivateStudentLoans.guru. “Cosigning a loan does a lot more than enabling the primary borrower to obtain the loan; the cosigner is obligated to repay the debt. As soon as the student is late with a payment, the lender will start seeking repayment from the cosigner.”
Not only will the lender seek missed payments, but technically, cosigning a loan means you are required to pay all of it back if the borrower can’t. What’s more, you might not even be aware payments were missed and would only find out when someone checks your credit score.
2. Cosigning a student loan could hurt your credit
Since you are on the hook for payments and a partner in taking on this debt, the loan will show up on your credit report as well. If your child’s loan payments are not repaid on-time and in full, it could have a negative effect on your credit score.
“If the student is late with a payment or defaults, it will ruin the credit scores of both the student and consigner,” said Kantrowitz. “The cosigned loan will count as indebtedness of the cosigner when the cosigner seeks to get new credit.”
Mark Billion of Bankruptcy Anywhere said, “If your credit score isn’t the best and you can’t afford to risk it taking a dip, you make want to reconsider becoming a cosigner. You probably shouldn’t do it if your child is likely to default. Also, depending on how the loan is structured, just taking out the loan could negatively impact your credit.”
3. Cosigning might hurt your other financial goals
Not only will you lose money if you are stuck paying back the loan, but you may also have problems getting loans when you need them most. You might have a tougher time qualifying for an auto loan or refinancing a mortgage because your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is impacted.
“Cosigning your child’s student loan will count towards your debt-to-income ratio,” said Billion. “This is something lenders will consider and cosigning could prevent you from getting the loan you want in the future.”
So if you’re going to be pursuing a mortgage or some other kind of loan in the near future, you may not want to cosign as it may affect your chances of securing a loan of your own. Even if you do qualify for the loan, your DTI could increase your interest rates because the banks consider you a higher risk loanee.
4. Bankruptcy doesn’t help if you can’t pay
Both you and your child are stuck not being able to pay the loan and might consider filing for bankruptcy as a last resort. Unfortunately, that won’t help your student loan situation because student loans are very difficult to discharge in bankruptcy, whether you are the parent or the child who took them out.
The only way to get a student loan discharged in a bankruptcy case is to prove to the court that repaying it would cause excessive hardship. You have to meet the stipulations of the Brunner test to qualify, which include poverty, persistence (where your financial situation isn’t likely to change), and good faith (you’ve tried to pay the loans).
“You can almost never get rid of [student loans],” said Billion. “And if you (or your child) defaults, you may see your Social Security and other benefits garnished. You are almost certain to lose your tax refunds.”
Not to mention, filing for bankruptcy hurts your credit, and you could end up paying court fees along the way.
5. Cosigning a student loan could strain your relationship
Of course, there are all of the negative financial implications for cosigning your child’s student loan. But there’s also the emotional aspect of it. You could be putting your relationship with your kin at risk if the repayment doesn’t go as intended.
Mixing family with finances could potentially damage a relationship if something goes wrong. “The other factor to consider is that by taking out the loan, you are potentially jeopardizing the chance to help your child in the future because you may not have available credit to cosign for houses and cars down the road,” said Billion.
Ask yourself, is this worth a risk of this significance? If your child can’t get student loans without a cosigner, it could damage the relationship in its own right. But these are all factors that need to be considered when making such an impactful decision.
If you’re not feeling comfortable cosigning your child’s loans, don’t worry because there are plenty of other options. Check out this article about ways parents can help pay for college and avoid financial ruin.
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1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
Information advertised valid as of 4/22/2021. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Lowest advertised rates require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.
2 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
3 Important Disclosures for Discover.
Lowest APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for undergraduate loans, and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.
4 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 11.26% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.88% to 11.66% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 11.37% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.78% to 11.73% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.30% to 11.52% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.95% to 11.89% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.60% to 10.76% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.88% to 11.16% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin and your APR may increase after origination if the LIBOR increases. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. 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. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 11/04/2020. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. SoFi Lending Corp., licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).
5 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.76% – 7.14% (2.76% – 7.14% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 3.01% – 7.50% (3.01% – 7.50% APR).
Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.19% – 6.73% (2.19% – 6.73% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 2.89% – 7.09% (2.89%-7.09% APR).
Business/Law Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.36% – 9.54% (1.36% – 8.82% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.13% – 9.84% (4.13% – 9.12% APR).
Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.36% – 8.34% (1.36% – 8.04% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.03% – 8.64% (4.03% – 8.34% APR).
Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.10% – 7.41% (2.10%-7.41% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.69% – 7.83% (4.69% – 7.83% APR).
Bar Study Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 4.45% – 9.60% (4.45% – 9.53% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 7.39% – 12.94% (7.38% – 12.81% APR).
Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.55% – 7.05% (3.55% – 6.77% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.97% – 10.07% APR).
Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable Rates are based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of March 1, 2021, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.11%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable rate is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%.
Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.
Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer. Borrowers should carefully review federal benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are considering possible loan forgiveness options, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision on our website including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
Eligibility Criteria: Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/Promissory Note, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank participating school.
Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
7 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Ascent Student Loans are funded by Richland State Bank (RSB), Member FDIC. Loan products December not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions December apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: www.AscentStudentLoans.com/Ts&Cs
Rates are effective as of 12/01/2020 and reflect an automatic payment discount of 0.25% on the lowest offered rate and a 2.00% discount on the highest offered rate. Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: www.AscentStudentLoans.com/Rates
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