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Do You Need a Cosigner for Student Loans? Benefits and Risks

What is a Cosigner?

In this article, we will explore the concept of cosigners for student loans and provide insights into whether or not a cosigner is necessary. We will discuss the benefits and risks of having a cosigner. We will also cover who may need a cosigner, how to find one, and alternatives to having a cosigner.

By providing a comprehensive overview of the benefits and risks, we aim to empower students and borrowers to make informed decisions about their financing options.

Understanding Student Loans

Student loans are financial aid designed to help students pay for higher education expenses, such as tuition, books, and living expenses. They can be obtained from government or private institutions and typically have to be repaid with interest after graduation or leaving school.

There are two types of student loans: federal and private. Federal loans are funded by the U.S. government and have fixed interest rates and flexible repayment plans. Banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions offer private loans and have variable interest rates and less flexible repayment plans.

Before applying for a student loan, it is vital to understand the terms and conditions, interest rates, and repayment plans to make informed decisions and avoid falling into debt. Exploring alternative funding sources, such as scholarships, grants, and work-study programs, is also important.

What is a Cosigner?

A cosigner is a person who agrees to take on equal responsibility for a loan along with the primary borrower. When a borrower applies for a loan, the lender assesses their creditworthiness to determine their eligibility for a loan and at what interest rate. If the borrower has a poor credit score or no credit history, the lender may require a cosigner to increase the likelihood of the loan being repaid.

The cosigner’s role is to provide additional security to the lender by agreeing to pay back the loan if the primary borrower defaults or cannot make payments. Cosigners are typically family members or close friends with a good credit history and stable income who are willing to take on the financial responsibility of the loan.

Benefits of Having a Cosigner

Having a cosigner for a student loan can provide several benefits to the borrower, including:

  • Approval chances increase. If the borrower has a limited or poor credit history, having a cosigner with a strong credit score and credit history can increase the likelihood of the loan approval.
  • Better interest rates. With a cosigner, the borrower may qualify for lower interest rates on their student loan, which can save them money over the life of the loan.
  • Build credit score. Regular, timely payments on the student loan can help the borrower and cosigner build their credit scores. This can be particularly beneficial for borrowers just starting to establish their credit history.

Risks of Having a Cosigner

While having a cosigner can provide several benefits, there are also risks associated with this arrangement, including:

  • Shared responsibility. When a cosigner agrees to take on the responsibility of the loan, they become equally responsible for repaying the debt. If the primary borrower fails to make payments on the loan, the cosigner is legally obligated to do so, which can strain their finances and credit.
  • Credit risk. If the primary borrower misses a payment or defaults on a loan, it can negatively impact both the borrower’s and the cosigner’s credit scores. This can make it difficult for the cosigner to obtain future credit and impact their ability to secure financing for a car or a home.
  • Strained relationships. Cosigning a loan can strain the relationship between the borrower and the cosigner, particularly if the borrower cannot make payments or defaults on loan. This can lead to financial and emotional stress for both parties and even damage the relationship irreparably.

Who Needs a Cosigner?

Not all student loan borrowers need a cosigner. However, there are some situations where a cosigner may be necessary, including:

Undergraduate students

Many undergraduate students may not have a significant credit history, income, or assets to qualify for a private student loan on their own. In this case, having a cosigner with a good credit score and financial stability can increase their chances of being approved.

Graduate students

Graduate students may also require a cosigner if they do not have a strong credit history or are pursuing an advanced degree requiring significant funding. They may sometimes qualify for a loan without a cosigner if they have a good credit history and income.

International students

International students may need a cosigner if they are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents, as they may not be eligible for federal student loans. In addition, international students may not have a credit history in the U.S., making it difficult to qualify for a private loan without a cosigner.

How to Find a Cosigner

Finding a cosigner for a student loan can be a challenging task, but there are a few steps borrowers can take to make the process easier.

You may have better luck finding a cosigner among close family members or friends with good credit scores and financial stability. It is important to approach the potential cosigner with a clear understanding of the loan terms, repayment plan, and potential risks.

Additionally, some companies offer cosigner matching services that connect borrowers with potential cosigners. These services often require a fee but can be useful for borrowers who do not have anyone in their network willing or able to cosign.

Many colleges and universities have a financial aid office that can provide guidance and support for students seeking loans. They can help connect students with potential cosigners or offer advice on other financing options.

Finally, some lenders offer loans that do not require a cosigner, while others may have specific requirements for cosigners. Researching and comparing options is important to find a lender that meets the borrower’s needs.

Alternatives to Having a Cosigner

If a borrower is unable to find a cosigner for their student loan, there are some alternative options to consider. 

Federal student loans

Federal student loans do not require a cosigner, making them a good option for borrowers who do not have a strong credit history or income. These loans also offer fixed interest rates and flexible repayment plans.

Scholarships and grants

Scholarships and grants are financial aid that does not need to be repaid. Students can apply for help from various sources, including their college or university, private organizations, and the government.

Income Share Agreements

Income Share Agreements (ISAs) are financing that allows students to pay for their education by pledging a percentage of their future income. ISAs do not require a cosigner and may be a good option for students who want to avoid taking on traditional debt.

Private student loans without a cosigner

While private student loans typically require a cosigner, some lenders may offer loans that do not. These loans may have higher interest rates and stricter eligibility requirements but can be an option for borrowers.


Having a cosigner for a student loan can offer many benefits, including access to better interest rates and increased chances of being approved for a loan. However, there are also risks, including potential damage to their credit score and strained personal relationships.

Whether or not a borrower needs a cosigner will depend on their credit history, income, assets, and the lender’s requirements. Suppose you cannot find a cosigner or don’t want one. In that case, alternative options include federal student loans, scholarships and grants, income share agreements, and private loans without a cosigner.

It is important for borrowers to carefully weigh their options and choose the best option for their needs and financial situation.


Q: Do all student loans require a cosigner?

A: Not necessarily. Federal student loans do not require a cosigner, while private student loans often require one.

Q: Who can be a cosigner for a student loan?

A: A cosigner is typically someone with a good credit history, stable income, and willing to take on responsibility for the loan if the borrower cannot repay it. Often, cosigners are close family members or friends.

Q: Can a cosigner be removed from a student loan?

A: Some lenders offer cosigner release programs that allow the cosigner to be removed from the loan after a certain number of on-time payments have been made. However, these programs are unavailable from all lenders and may have specific eligibility requirements.

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