Private student loans are one way that many college students pay for their higher education when federal student loans, scholarships, and savings aren’t enough. Through private lenders, student loans are available to those who have a strong credit score and meet minimum income requirements; however, most college students don’t fit these criteria.
Recent high school graduates rarely have had a chance to establish a credit history or build a strong credit score, and they often do not have a consistent income. When that is the case, a cosigner may be used to help them qualify for a loan and receive a lower interest rate.
Adding a cosigner to a loan application can increase access to credit, but there are considerations to make beforehand. Both borrowers and cosigners need to understand the advantages and disadvantages of cosigning a student loan, which are detailed below.
On this page:
- What Does it Mean to Use a Cosigner?
- What are the Pros of Using a Cosigner?
- What are the Cons of Using a Cosigner?
- Deciding if Using a Cosigner is Right for You
- Options if You Don’t Have a Cosigner or Don’t Want to Use One
What Does it Mean to Use a Cosigner?
A cosigner is simply a person added to a loan application in addition to the primary borrower who shares responsibility for repayment.
In most cases, a cosigner is a parent, relative, or spouse who has stronger or more established credit history than the student. When the primary borrower does not have a good credit score or has not yet established a foundation of on-time payments or responsible credit use, a creditworthy cosigner may be required to be approved for a private loan.
>> Read More: Can a grandparent cosign on a private student loan?
The reason for adding a cosigner to a private student loan application is to give the lender more peace of mind in approving you for a loan. Someone with strong credit is seen as a low-risk borrower, while an individual with a limited credit history is seen as high-risk. If a borrower fails to pay the loan as agreed, the cosigner is responsible for making loan payments, just as much as the student.
For reference, the majority of private student loans are cosigned. Federal student loans, on the other hand, do not require cosigners because a credit check is not required and approval is based on the school you are attending and other non-financial factors.
What are the Pros of Using a Cosigner?
Becoming Eligible & Receiving Lower Rates
The primary benefits of having a cosigner are that they help you get approved for a loan and may help you receive a lower interest rate. In addition, you may be approved for a higher loan amount if you have a cosigner.
Building Your Credit Score
In addition to these benefits, a cosigner on a private student loan may also help the primary borrower build their credit history. As long as payments are made on time and in full, private student loans help create a track record of responsible credit use and repayment history for the borrower.
May Help International Students Become Eligible
Lastly, cosigners from the United States may help international students gain approval for a loan that requires borrowers to be citizens or permanent residents.
>> Read More: Student loans for international students
What are the Cons of Using a Cosigner?
Cosigner is at Financial Risk
The main downside of using a cosigner is that if you make late payments or don’t make payments at all, your cosigner is left to pick up the pieces. Not only could their credit be damaged, but they could owe a significant amount of money to repay the loan balance, which may become immediately due.
This can damage your relationship with your cosigner, whether a family member, friend, or spouse.
Cosigner May Not Be Able to Get New Credit
Having a cosigner on a private student loan also negatively impacts the cosigner’s ability to get new credit. Depending on the amount of the loan and its repayment terms, a cosigner may have a hard time being approved for other substantial credit accounts, such as a mortgage or an auto loan.
Not All Lenders Offer Cosigner Release
Not all private student loan lenders offer cosigner release which allows borrowers to remove their cosigners from the agreements after a certain amount of on-time monthly payments are made.
The idea here is that the borrower has established enough of a credit history to qualify for the loan on his or her own, or they are responsible enough to cover payments.
Without a release, the cosigner remains tied to the loan unless you refinance it with a different lender in your own name only.
Deciding if Using a Cosigner is Right for You
Cosigners are extremely common with private student loans, but they are not always the most appropriate choice for student loan borrowers. If you can get access to enough credit on your own, based on your own credit score and income, then there may be no need to add a cosigner to your student loan.
Additionally, if you fear the negative outcomes for the cosigner if you fail in repayment, including their damaged credit and relationship with you, cosigning may not be the right choice for you.
If, however, you are in need of financing for your college endeavors and you have no other options aside from private student loans, you may be required to add a cosigner to your application. Be sure to check with your lender before submitting your application to determine the options you have.
Options if You Don’t Have a Cosigner or Don’t Want to Use One
If you don’t have a cosigner or don’t want to use one, there are some options you could consider to find funding for your higher education. If you want to see some lenders who don’t require a cosigner and have some less strict eligibility requirements, check out our Student Loans Without a Cosigner Guide.
Federal Student Loans
Fortunately, a cosigner is not a requirement for all student loans. Federal student loans do not require full underwriting, meaning you don’t need a credit check or proof of income. Instead, students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to see what they are eligible for in terms of federal loans. Direct Loans are an option for undergraduate students while Direct Loans and Grad PLUS Loans are options for graduate students.
You may also look to state-based student loan programs that do not require a credit check. These programs vary based on where you live and your level of study, but they may provide options without the need for a cosigner.
Lenders Who Don’t Use Credit History
Also, consider lenders that do not rely on your credit report and income alone to determine eligibility. Some lenders may evaluate your degree program and potential earnings to help get you to approved without a cosigner.
Look for Alternative Forms of Financial Aid
Finally, grants, scholarships, and work-study programs are not loans and therefore do not require repayment or a credit check. These can be valuable additions to your overall financial aid package. Be sure to consider federal financial aid as well as local and state-based options.
Having a cosigner can be helpful in getting you enough financing for your college expenses. However, think through both the pros and cons of cosigning a student loan.
Always take the time to talk with a potential cosigner about these issues and compare your options with different lenders and financing sources before signing on the dotted line.
Also, if you do have a cosigner, be sure to have a repayment plan to ensure that you are successful.
Author: Melissa Horton
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