Do You Need a Cosigner for Student Loans?

Dec 20

A student loan is essentially an agreement that you make with the federal government or a private lender to borrow money. If you applied for the FAFSA® (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and qualified for federal student loans but still need help covering your tuition and living expenses, you may consider private student loans as an additional option to help you pay for college.  

While exploring your additional student loan options, one of the first questions you may find yourself asking is whether you need a cosigner. 
But what happens if you don’t qualify for a private student loan on your own? Or what if you only qualify for a loan with a high interest rate? It may be time to bring another person into this deal–a cosigner. Finding a creditworthy cosigner may help you get a private student loan that can both cover the costs of your college tuition and let you graduate without owing an overwhelming amount of interest. Read on to learn more about the potential benefits of a cosigner and other considerations to help you make this important financial decision.  

What Is a Student Loan Cosigner?

A student loan cosigner is someone who agrees to sign the loan paperwork next to your name when you apply for a school loan. In doing so, your cosigner agrees to allow their assets and income to be considered as collateral alongside yours. This can help reduce the risk the lender is taking by lending you money to pay for school. This may also motivate the lender to loan you a larger amount of money or lower the interest rate they offer you on your loan. 

While student loan cosigners are often thought of as a financial “backup” in case you can’t make a payment, legally they’re just as responsible for your student loans as you are. Lenders can pursue both you and your cosigner for unpaid loans and can impact both of your credit, so make sure whoever you ask to cosign your private student loans is supportive (and committed) to you achieving your college dreams just as much as you. 

Who Can Be a Student Loan Cosigner?

Generally, in the United States, a student loan cosigner must be a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident. Each student loan provider may have unique requirements and qualifications for cosigning, so doing some research is recommended before applying.  

For example, to apply for a cosigned loan with Ascent, a cosigner will also need to meet the minimum income and credit score requirements with at least two years’ credit history. You can check out Ascent’s other eligibility requirements here. 

Just because you may have several options for a student loan cosigner, it doesn’t mean they are equally good choices. Later in this piece, we’ll discuss how to choose the right cosigner and share some tips to help prepare you for this conversation. 

Do Student Loans Need a Cosigner?

While most private lenders require student loans to have cosigners, especially for first-time borrowers, some lenders will have additional requirements depending on your situation. 

You may be able to apply for federal student loans directly from the Department of Education without a cosigner, even if you’re under 18. As we mentioned before, if federal aid doesn’t fully cover your tuition and you’re considering a private student loan, you may need a cosigner if you don’t meet the loan and credit requirements on your own. 

If you’re considering private student loans, your need for a student loan cosigner will depend on your situation. Several factors can help you determine the answer to the question, “Do you have to have a cosigner for student loans?”—or if you should at least consider one—including: 

  • Your Age: Private lenders may require students to meet the age of majority to take out a loan. This varies by state but can typically be anywhere between 18 and 21. 
  • Your Credit Score: If you have no credit history or a low credit score (below 600), you may qualify for lower interest rates and/or larger loans with a cosigner. 
  • Your Employment History: Working part-time at a local restaurant or retail store is great if your school schedule allows it but it may not meet a lender’s employment requirement. 
  • Your Income: As a college student, it is likely that your current income may not meet a lender’s minimum income requirement.  
  • Your Debt-to-Income Ratio: Debt-to-income ratio is a calculation used by many lenders when evaluating your loan application by dividing your monthly debt (bills) by your monthly income. A low debt-to-income ratio may indicate you can afford to pay the loan back, but a high ratio might require you to find a cosigner to qualify. 

If you don’t meet some (or all) of the above factors, there are still ways you can qualify for a student loan without a cosigner through Ascent. In addition to a credit-based option, student borrowers with an insufficient credit history or those who pass the minimum credit requirements but don’t meet the income or repayment requirements may qualify for a non-cosigned future income-based loan.  

These student loans are available to college juniors and seniors, and qualification criteria may include several alternative factors, including school, GPA, and cost of attendance. Check out our FAQs to learn more

Cosigning Federal Loans vs. Private Loans

When planning how to pay for college, applying for federal loans through the FAFSA is the first place you should start. While there are several types of federal student loans available, these loans generally have fixed interest rates and more flexible repayment options, which make them less risky compared to private loans. Federal loans may also offer benefits that are not available from private lenders, such as income-based repayment plans or loan forgiveness programs. 

Private student loans, however, can be an option for you if you are left with a gap between your total expected expenses and the amount in federal loans you qualify for. From undergraduate student loans to specialized grad student loans, private lenders may offer a variety of different loan options, interest rates, and repayment terms to fit your unique needs. 

Ultimately, cosigning any loan involves taking on a financial risk. Do your research to see which loan type—or a combination of both—is best suited for your needs and financial circumstances. 

How Do I Ask Someone to Be a Cosigner for My Student Loan? 

If you’ve decided you do need a cosigner for student loans, it is important to think carefully about choosing the right cosigner. Selecting a student loan cosigner isn’t easy, and there are many things to consider. However, the number one thing to consider is whether you’re comfortable being financially involved with this person for several years.  

Keep Things Calm

Talking to someone you care for about important issues and asking for help can be emotional, so finding a neutral place, like a coffee shop, to talk can help you stay level-headed. 

It’s normal to feel a bit anxious about this conversation, so a little preparation can go a long way. Brainstorm a few talking points in advance with answers to potential questions that might come up. This will also show you have done your homework and are taking this seriously. 

You may also want to let them know what other financial options you have already explored like if you have applied for federal aid, scholarships, or other loans.  

Avoid the Potential for Guilt 

Start by making it clear that your potential cosigner may say “no,” and there will be no hard feelings. Let them know that there are many reasons someone may not be willing to cosign a loan, any of which they may want to keep private. Tell them you know that your potential cosigner saying “no” doesn’t mean that they aren’t supportive of your future goals. 

Make Sure They Know What They’re Agreeing To

Make sure your cosigner is 100% clear on what this means for their financial future, including potential implications to their credit and their obligation to make payments on your behalf if you’re unable to in the future. 

It can also be helpful to let them know that many private student loan providers, including Ascent, may allow you to remove your cosigner from your student loan once you have proven successful payment history and meet specific eligibility criteria. Visit our FAQs for more information on Ascent’s cosigner release requirements. 

Create Your Own Agreement

Let your potential cosigner know how you plan to make payments while in school or after graduation. Even if they don’t bring it up, you should.  

Make sure both of you fully understand the terms and requirements of the loan. Having an agreement about what will happen if your cosigner needs to make any payments could avoid uncomfortable and emotional conversations down the road. You could even consider writing up a separate contract showing what you’ve agreed to do together. 

What if I Can’t Find a Cosigner for Student Loans?

If you do need a cosigner for student loans but can’t find a willing or eligible cosigner, not all hope is lost. Here are some tips on what to do if you can’t find a cosigner

Explore all of your
financial options (you should always do this before taking out a loan or making a serious financial decision).  
  • Apply for a smaller loan. 
  • Talk to your school’s financial aid office about other potential solutions.  
  • Reach out to your school’s alumni association to see if they have a program for students in your situation. 
  • See if you qualify for Ascent’s Non-Cosigned Credit-Based or Outcomes-Based Loans. 
  • Consider applying for a student scholarship

If none of these options work for you, don’t give up! Instead, reframe your plans. For instance, see if you can attend classes part-time while building up your credit. While doing this, make sure you stick to a budget and find ways to improve your credit so you can apply for aid again in the future. 

Learn More with Ascent

So, do you need a cosigner for your student loans? The answer is going to depend on your specific circumstances and needs. 

Having a cosigner may make you more appealing to lenders, improve your chances of qualifying for a loan, or get you a better interest rate than you’d be eligible for on your own. Applying with a cosigner may also increase the size of the loan you can qualify for or improve the terms and conditions you are offered.  

If you are considering applying for college loans and are wondering if you need a cosigner, Ascent is here to help. From your first application to your final payment, we are committed to helping you make your educational dreams come true. Check your rate today without impacting your credit score or follow our blog for more student success tips and information. 


How do I know if I need a cosigner for student loans?

The only way to know for sure if you need a cosigner is to talk to a loan officer at the lender of your choice. Every lender has unique requirements that you will have to meet, and only that lender will be able to definitively tell you that you meet them. 

In general, reasons why you may need a cosigner include: 

  • Having a credit score that is too low 
  • Having insufficient credit history 
  • Having insufficient income 
  • Requiring or desiring a larger loan 
  • Requiring or desiring a lower interest rate 
  • Requiring or desiring better terms and conditions
To find out more about whether you specifically need a cosigner for your Ascent student loans, contact us today. 

Do FAFSA loans require a cosigner?

Do you have to have a cosigner for student loans if they come from FAFSA? Many student loans from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) do not require a cosigner. Loan options such as Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized do not involve a credit check as they are awarded strictly based on financial needs.  

However, there is one exception, what is known as the Federal PLUS Loan, which is available to the parents of dependent undergraduate students. If the parent is unable to pass the credit check on their own, they may need a cosigner. 

Why would a cosigner be denied a student loan?

There are several reasons why an individual would be denied as a cosigner. However, most of these reasons are due to the lender’s judgment of how creditworthy they are. Some of the most common and important factors that cause someone to be denied for being a cosigner on a student loan may include: 

  • Having a low credit score or having a credit score that is below a certain threshold  
  • Having an imbalanced income-to-debt ratio or having too many monthly debt payments compared to one’s income 
  • Having negative items on one’s credit history such as late payments, bankruptcies, or defaults 
  • Not having a steady job history or a history of frequent job changes or periods of unemployment 
  • Having outstanding loans, especially if the amount of outstanding debt is significant 
  • Not meeting citizenship or residency requirements 

As current and former students, we provide free resources to help you throughout your education, which may include links to third-party websites (where security and privacy policies may differ from Ascent’s). For our full disclaimer, please click here.