Should You Co-Sign a Student Loan?

Factors To Consider Before Co-Signing a Student Loan

Parent and student talk to a loan officer at a bank

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Student loans are one way to cover the costs of a college education, but not all students may be able to secure loans by themselves. If you've been asked to co-sign a student loan, there are several things you'll want to consider before agreeing. How much will the student earn in their job after college? What is their plan to repay the debt? Do they understand that student loans could have long-lasting financial implications for you if you do co-sign? When deciding whether you should co-sign a student loan, these factors and more need to be top of mind.

Key Takeaways

  • Co-signing a student loan means you take on the risk and agree to repay the loan if the student borrower can't do it themselves.
  • Private student loans often require a co-signer while co-signers are not as popular on federal student loans.
  • Before co-signing a student loan, talk to the student about how they plan to pay for college. Ask them if they've filled out the FAFSA; applied for federal aid, grants, and scholarships; and how they plan to repay the loan after graduation.

Co-Signing Federal and Private Student Loans

There are two types of student loans: federal and private. Federal student loans usually do not require a co-signer, but they do have some stringent collection practices if the student should default on these loans after graduation. The federal government could garnish future earnings or even withhold federal income tax refunds to which they might otherwise be entitled. A federal student loan income repayment plan may give you the option to add a spouse or partner as a co-signer, too.

Private student loans, on the other hand, don’t usually have the same level of collection capabilities, so they are more likely to require a co-signer on the loan. You as the co-signer will likely need to have a better credit score and credit report than the student, and you must agree to be responsible for repayment if the student does not repay the loan.


A co-signer on a student loan is often a parent, grandparent, relative, or close friend who agrees to take on this risk.

What To Consider Before Co-Signing a Student Loan

If you have been asked to be a co-signer, think carefully before agreeing. You certainly want the student to be able to attend college, but there's no way to know what will happen after graduation when the loan payments are due.

For example, the student may over-borrow and have more loans that can easily be repaid. The job market might not be as promising as it once was and the student might not be able to quickly find a job that pays well enough for them to afford the monthly loan payments.

Whatever the reason, if they fall behind on payments, you could suddenly start receiving collection notices in your mailbox.

Beyond those factors, it's important to consider how co-signing for a student loan could impact your own finances. Keep reading before you sign on the dotted line.

You Could Be Responsible for the Entire Loan

Of course, we all focus on the positives and have the best of intentions, but so many things can happen. Even if the student is responsible and gets a good job, they could get sick, have unexpected expenses, lose their job, overextend their budget, or worse. None of this would release you from your obligation to repay the student loan. Talk this over with the student and with your own family to make sure you can afford to make these payments should the student be unable to.


Consider the relationship you have with the student borrower. If you become responsible for the loan payments, would it have a negative impact on your relationship? Remember, student loans are often paid off over the course of 10 to 25 years—that's a long time to be a co-signer.

Co-Signing a Student Loan Could Affect Your Credit

You might need to borrow money for your own use over the coming years, and being a co-signer could impact your credit and make it difficult for you to take out a home or car loan at a reasonable rate. Once the student loan starts coming due, any late or missed payments on the student’s part could also reflect badly on your credit.

Make sure the student has a solid understanding of the total amount of money that is borrowed, how much needs to be repaid after interest is calculated, what the total monthly payment will be, and when payments will begin.

A Co-Signer Release May Be Difficult To Obtain

Even if think you have the flexibility to pay back the loan if needed, something unexpected could happen in your life that could cause you financial hardship, making it difficult to afford the student loan payment. If that happened, you may look to be released as a co-signer.

While this is possible in some circumstances, it may be more difficult than you think. Not all student loan agreements offer the option for co-signer release, while others only make it possible after the student has made a certain number of payments. You'll need to contact the student loan servicer to request co-signer release.

Advise your student to rely first on available federal, state, and institutional financial aid before asking you to co-sign on any private student loans.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who can co-sign a student loan?

Anyone with a higher credit score that demonstrates their creditworthiness and a good history of repayment on other debts can co-sign a loan. This may be a parent, guardian, aunt, uncle, cousin, sibling, or friend.

How does co-signing a student loan affect a mortgage?

If you agreed to co-sign a student loan, that debt and the payments will show up on your credit report and history. This could impact your ability to qualify and get approved for a new mortgage because the student loan shows as an additional debt that you may be responsible to pay off. If the student misses payments, it could also negatively impact your credit score, which could cause you to miss out on the best mortgage interest rate.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Federal Student Aid. "How Does My Spouse Co-Sign My Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) Plan Request?"

  2. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "What Is a Co-Signer for a Student Loan?"

  3. Federal Student Aid. "Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans."

  4. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Tips for Student Loan Co-Signers."

  5. Federal Trade Commission Consumer Advice. "Cosigning a Loan FAQs."

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