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Student Loan Basics: What Parents and Cosigners Need to Know

If your student did not receive enough financial aid to cover the cost of college, they may turn to you for financial help. If you are considering taking on a federal Parent PLUS Loan, a parent education loan or cosigning a private student loan with your student, consider these important points.

A cosigner is financially liable for the debt

As a cosigner on a private student loan, you and the student are equally responsible for payments. Late payments, delinquency and default will affect your credit.

If you take out a federal Parent PLUS Loan, you are taking on the debt yourself. Carefully consider the repayment terms, interest rate and fees you may face.

The total repayment amount will be more than the loan amount

Student loans generally accrue interest every day. Interest may also capitalize at certain times, such as when the student graduates or a period of assistance ends. This means accrued, unpaid interest will be added to the principal balance. In addition, you may have origination, late or other loan fees incorporated into the total repayment amount.

The responsibility can last as long as the loan term

Student loans are not typically discharged in the event of bankruptcy or other circumstances. In addition, if your student doesn't graduate, earn as much as anticipated after graduating or obtain their expected job, the debt doesn't go away. If the loan has been disbursed, cosigners are equally responsible for payment.

Many lenders offer a cosigner release. If you are counting on being released from your obligation to repay the debt, pay careful attention to the requirements for obtaining this benefit. Your student will likely need to make a certain number of on-time payments and meet other conditions before cosigners are eligible for release.

Your circumstances may change before the debt is repaid

If your student is entering college now, consider how your income may change before the end of the anticipated loan term. Will you still be working or will you be stretching a retirement income to cover any payments? What happens if you or your student loses a job?

Student loan debt is a financial decision

Many parents want to provide their student's college dream, even if they must take on debt to do so. Remember that student loans are a financial tool and, like other financial products, carry risks and benefits.

You can help your student successfully repay debt

Preparing your student to fulfill their obligations for a cosigned loan or taking on Parent PLUS Loan payments (if that is your and your student's understanding) is an important step.

  • Understand potential starting budget. It's easy for an incoming college student to overestimate how much a starting career will pay when they consider the cost of college and their ability to repay debt after graduation. Together, with your student, explore the Return on College Investment tool to learn how a student's educational path and job outlook can change the return on their college investment.
  • Monitor college success. Good grades, valuable job and internship experiences and appropriate career preparation can all help your student have an advantage in the job search. You can help your student position themselves for a starting salary that will allow manageable loan payments.
  • Make your plan. Experience the parent version of Student Loan Game Plan for tips and information on how to work with your student to ensure success.
  • Research student or parent loan options. Consider interest rates, terms and fees, available repayment assistance in the event of hardship, borrower benefits and potential starting salary when thinking about your loan options.

Check out our College Family Loan, a private student loan for parents, guardians and family members looking to help undergrad and grad students with college costs. As a nonprofit, we're able to offer competitive rates that are often lower than rates offered by other national for-profit lenders and that are lower than the parent PLUS loan rate. You can pre-qualify within minutes with no impact to your credit.

Pre-Qualify Now

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