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.
Information advertised valid as of 9/24/2020. 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 Earnest.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 11.26% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.87% to 11.66% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 11.37% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.77% 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 1.94% to 11.89% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.60% to 10.76% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.87% 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 10/20/2020. 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).
6 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicant’s ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
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 0.17% effective Sep 1, 2020 and may increase after consummation.