Students and graduates needing to find a cosigner for student loan aid typically ask Mom or Dad. But if your parents aren’t an option, you’ll be happy to know that private lenders are often flexible about who can serve as the guarantor of your loan agreement.
Your cosigner must simply be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and must have good credit and a steady income. Alternative cosigners might include a grandparent, spouse, aunt or uncle, or a trusted mentor.
However, it’s still a big ask for someone to support you through (or after) school. Here’s some advice on how to find a cosigner for student loans without asking a parent.
Why you might need to find a cosigner
Almost all federal student loans can be applied for and granted without a cosigner, which is one of many reasons to rely on them first. On the other hand, private loans for undergraduates, almost always require a cosigner.
In fact, 91% of undergraduate loans carry a cosigner, according to MeasureOne. Without a cosigner, you might have higher interest rates and the lender likely took on more risk in the transaction.
That’s what a good cosigner or co-borrower does: They improve the applicant profile with their superior credit history. Cosigners are also keenly aware that they’d be responsible for loan repayment if the primary borrower fails to keep up.
In a sunnier scenario, the primary borrower can build up their credit history by making on-time payments. Their cosigner could rest easy behind the scenes, serving as a safety net.
But it’s a lot of responsibility, which helps to explain why typically only those closest to you are willing to take it on.
|How to find a U.S. cosigner for international students
If you’re on a student visa and are looking to fund your next semester of education in the U.S., you might have trouble initially. After all, permanent residency is a requirement of federal student aid, and most banks, credit unions and other private lenders won’t offer loans if you’re applying on your own.
To find a cosigner for an international student loan, it would help to have connections in the U.S. A creditworthy aunt or uncle who lives in the country, for example, could help you qualify.
MPOWER Financing is a rare example of a reputable lender that won’t require an international student to find a cosigner. But keep in mind that you’ll likely face a higher interest rate without piggybacking on someone else’s thicker credit file.
After unsuccessfully asking family for a loan or cosignature, you have options for nontraditional cosigners. Here are some safe options for people willing to cosign a loan, plus some you should avoid.
Closer is better when seeking people to cosign a loan
First, think about those in your inner circle. Maybe you have an aunt, uncle or grandparent who’s set financially and wouldn’t mind staking their credit report on you. The senior members of your family could be in a better position to take on this kind of risk.
Calling on siblings or cousins can become more tricky. They might want to keep their borrowing history clear to prepare for their own big purchases, such as applying for a mortgage.
Beyond your relatives, consider the people in your life who would go to bat for you. Lifelong friends and mentors might be willing to back you up, even though you don’t share the same last name. (So if you have to go through your social media network to find them, the relationship likely isn’t strong enough for cosigning).
If you’re going to graduate school, a former teacher or professor you grew close to might be convinced to help you further your study. This could be true if you’ve exhausted every other avenue to funding and simply need a smaller private loan to push you over the hump.
Beware of online cosigners
There are many reasons to avoid finding an online cosigner via Craigslist (or similar online classifieds that lack security). You should also be wary of companies that claim to specialize specifically in matching needy students with people willing to cosign a loan at a cost.
Websites like HireACosigner.com and CosignerFinder.com would ask you to submit a free application, including your personal information and detailing your loan amount. Then you could be asked to pay a fee of some kind. HireACosigner.com, for example, asks between $29.99 and $39.99 to connect you with these professional cosigners based on your credit score or location.
From there, you’d need to make it worth the stranger’s while. In exchange for serving as your cosigner, they could ask for a portion of your loan, for example. You might be asked whether you’re open to sharing your loan amount on your initial application.
That’s if you’re matched with a legitimate online cosigner at all. According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), services like these are often predatory, targeting financially vulnerable students. Be aware, for example, that CosignerFinder users submitted multiple complaints to the BBB, claiming that the service failed to match them with willing cosigners as promised and that their refund requests went unaddressed.
If you’re thinking about how to find a cosigner for a student loan online, put the service (and the cosigner) through the same kind of strict tests you’d give to a lender. With the high risk of scams, don’t take cosigner service advertising (including their homepages) at face value. And if they call for you to pay someone to cosign a loan, be very skeptical.
Once you’ve identified people willing to cosign a loan, make sure they’re eligible. College Ave Student Loans, for example, has a prequalification tool that can help your prospective cosigner verify their residency status, income and credit score.
The question of how to find a cosigner for a student loan then becomes how to get a cosigner to sign on the dotted line.
When you’ve found an eligible target, state your case like a Ph.D. student would defend their thesis. Come prepared, and be honest about the risks. Answering these five questions should strengthen your case:
1. Why do you need the loan amount?
If you need a $10,000 private loan to cover your junior year, for example, explain what exactly the money will be put toward, whether it’s tuition, housing or another necessary expense.
2. What is your plan for repayment?
Show them with data (maybe with the help of our monthly payment calculator) depicting how your estimated postgraduate income and savings will cover your future loan payments.
3. How are you equipped to handle repayment on your own?
Don’t be shy about sharing your finances with a person you trust. If you have other loans (or plans to take out additional debt), they might like to know that your exposure goes beyond the loan they’re cosigning.
4. How would you navigate your worst-case repayment scenario?
Make sure to answer any questions they have about their liability. They need to know, for example, that the lender will hold them accountable for loan payments if you can no longer make them.
5. What is your plan for seeking cosigner release?
More positively, bring up the possibility of cosigner release, in which you take over the loan entirely after a given number of payments. You can tell the prospective guarantor about the benefits of cosigner release and your plan to work toward it.
When possible, answer these questions with facts, not just niceties. Your cosigner is hitching themselves to your wagon, so they deserve to know the destination.
How to look for private student loans without cosigner requirements
As you’re looking to finance your college or graduate school education, it’s important to know that you have options to find a cosigner other than your parents. They’re not all great options, but finding a relative or friend offline — without paying for it — will generally be the best way to go.
If you can’t find a helping hand, there may still be ways to secure student loans without cosigner support.
Federal student loans are generally the most advantageous, as they don’t require an initial credit check, and eligible students can easily apply by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
As a federal student loan borrower, you’ll have access to various benefits, like income-driven repayment plans, special student loan forgiveness programs, and extended deferment and forbearance options.
There are also private loan companies that lend to individual borrowers without access to cosigners. Just ensure you’d be able to meet their eligibility requirements.
|Stated eligibility criteria
|Note that …
|2 years of credit history, $24,000 minimum income
|If you don’t meet those requirements, you could still qualify for an Ascent income-share agreement-like loan
|Credit score of 660 or above
|If you’re unsure about qualifying on your own, try the lender’s prequalification tool
|Credit score of at least 650, annual income of $35,000+ and three years of credit history
|Noncitizen students without permanent resident status (who have a Social Security number) are eligible with a cosigner
|Education Loan Finance
|Credit score of at least 680, annual income of $35,000+ and 3 years of credit history
|ELFI has a minimum loan amount of $10,000
|GPA and school graduate rates vary by your year in the degree program
|Your academic success, job experience and projected postgraduate income determine the fate of your loan application
|Attend a degree program in the U.S. or Canada and be within 2 years of graduation
|Your future earning potential, not your credit score, is used to determine your eligibility
|“Satisfactory” credit, meet unspecified debt-to-income criteria
|Students must be citizens or permanent residents living in the U.S. for at least 2 years, enrolled at least half time; cosigner required for 17-year-olds
|Attend an eligible graduate school in an eligible state
|International students and American students studying abroad are eligible to borrow
|Half-time enrollment is required for all SoFi loans
Frequently asked questions
What do you need to be a cosigner?
Lender requirements for a cosigner can vary. Generally, a cosigner must have “very good” to “excellent” credit with a score of at least 670. Cosigners also need reliable and sufficient income, with a debt-to-income ratio of less than 50%.
Do federal student loans need cosigners?
Typically, federal student loans don’t require a credit check. You might still qualify for federal student loan aid with poor credit and without a cosigner. The only exception is if you’re applying for a PLUS Loan with bad credit; in this situation, you might need an endorser with good credit to qualify.
What if you can’t find a cosigner?
If you can’t find a cosigner, and have already explored federal student loans and other private lenders, consider applying for other types of financial aid. Financial assistance through grants and scholarships can help you bridge the cost between the aid you’ve received and your education costs. Also, consider work-study programs or taking on a part-time job while pursuing your degree.