Should You Co-Sign on Someone’s Student Loans?

Apr 17


Jeff McTabor

Jeff McTabor

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Co-signing a student loan is a major financial decision that can impact your credit and financial stability. Before you agree to co-sign, understand the responsibilities and risks involved. This guide explores the nuances of co-signing student loans, including legal implications and protective measures you can take.


Understanding the Role of a Co-Signer

A co-signer on a student loan shares equal responsibility with the primary borrower. If the borrower fails to make payments,Should You Co-Sign on Someone’s Student Loans? Articles the co-signer is legally obligated to repay the debt. This arrangement is common because many students lack the credit history required to secure a loan on their own.

Federal vs. Private Student Loans

Federal student loans often do not require a co-signer. Programs like the Stafford and Perkins loans are designed to be accessible without a credit check. However, Federal Grad PLUS and Parent PLUS loans might require a co-signer if the borrower's credit does not meet certain standards.

Private student loans, offered by banks and other financial institutions, almost always require a co-signer. These loans are credit-based, and most students need a co-signer to qualify due to their limited or non-existent credit history.

Key Differences:

  • Federal Student Loans: Typically do not require a co-signer. Offer deferment, forbearance, and forgiveness options.
  • Private Student Loans: Usually require a co-signer. Fewer repayment options and no guaranteed forgiveness.

Legal Implications for Co-Signers

Co-signing a student loan makes you as legally responsible for the repayment as the primary borrower. If the borrower defaults, you will be expected to pay. This can affect your credit score and overall financial health. Additionally, in the case of default, lenders can pursue the same collection actions against you as they would against the primary borrower.

Risks of Co-Signing

  • Credit Impact: Any late payments or defaults will affect your credit score.
  • Financial Responsibility: You are legally obligated to repay the loan if the primary borrower cannot.
  • Long-term Liability: The debt may affect your ability to qualify for other loans or financial products.

Protecting Yourself as a Co-Signer

If you decide to co-sign a student loan, taking steps to protect yourself is crucial. Here are some strategies:

  1. Communication and Agreement: Maintain open lines of communication with the borrower. Consider a written agreement outlining each party's responsibilities.
  2. Monitor the Loan: Ensure that you receive duplicate statements from the lender and regularly check your credit report.
  3. Understand Deferment Options: For federal loans, familiarize yourself with deferment and forbearance options. Private lenders may offer similar provisions, but these are not guaranteed.
  4. Prepare to Step In: Be financially prepared to assume loan payments if the borrower cannot make them.

Resources for Co-Signers


Co-signing a student loan can be a generous act to help someone achieve their educational goals, but it comes with significant risks. It's essential to fully understand the implications and have a plan in place for managing the potential financial impact. Always consider speaking with a financial advisor to assess the risks and benefits specific to your financial situation.