Private Student Loans & No Cosigner?

Sarah’s almost done with school, but senior year is going to be brutal. Private student loans may be the answer, but she’s lacking a cosigner.

I’ll let her tell the rest.

I’m an undergrad college student, going into my senior year. I graduate next May & start applying to grad schools in December!


Up to this point, I’ve kept my student debt extremely low – I think I’ve only incurred around $15,000 in government student loans. I’ve been going to college every single session (Summer, Fall, Spring) since Fall 2008 without pause (outside of winter breaks), so I’m fairly proud of myself for keeping it so low.

private student loans no cosigner
I'm tired of looking for student loans-related images, so today you get this sparkly pegasus instead.

As well you should be. $5,000 per year in student loans isn’t bad at all, regardless of your major. Unless it’s women’s studies. (JUST KIDDING, women’s studies people — just seein’ if you’re still awake out there). Yeah, $20k in loans isn’t bad at all for a four-year degree.

Next week is the start of the Fall semester – & for the first time, I have had to start considering alternative loan sources. I have too much going on to work; I’m taking three studio art classes (which are EXTREMELY intensive in just one alone), two classes for my major, one writing intensive, commuting to a community college for another class that will help me for grad school, writing & doing the research for my undergrad Honors thesis, volunteering with a hospice on a weekly basis, & I’m the president of one organization & on the board of another. I’m busy, & I don’t think adding more is in my better interest.

I’m going to have to agree with you there — probably not much time for work. And even if you could squeeze some extra hours in, you should probably use them to rest.

My government loans alone won’t be able to support me for the entirety of the school year, & I’m not interested in becoming a literal starving artist.

Yeah, there will be plenty of time for that when the government is NOT loaning you money. 🙂

The problem with looking for alternative loans is that I don’t believe I have a co-signer – I’ve been told my family is in their own debt & they don’t want to add mine, too.

That’ll make things harder, but not impossible. There are private student loans & no cosigner available, though of course the interest rate is higher. Even on these private student loans that do require a cosigner, the cosigner can often be released after 36-48 months of consecutive on-time payments.

How much money are we talking about here? I don’t know how much you need to bridge the gap.

To the absolute best of my ability, I have been very independent & self-supporting since high school & I literally never ask them for help or money or food or clothes or anything, & haven’t even lived in my parent’s house for more than a week or two each year, just for holidays or if I’m bouncing between living situations & need somewhere to keep belongings. I don’t think it’s fair that, with my track record of not asking for help from them, anyone could ever jump to the conclusion that I don’t take responsibility for my own debt & finances, but it seems out of my hands right now.

I can’t tell if you’re referring to your parents or the banks, but either way, I know what you’re saying. Unfortunately, the banks don’t know your track record in that respect.

I asked my step-father about helping me find alternative loans back in April & gently reminded him by asking periodically or giving him paperwork with student loan interest rates, etc., & he’s avoided the subject (whether he’s busy with his own life or genuinely not interested in approaching it altogether). Given the extremely late impression that they can’t / won’t co-sign altogether, now I’m starting to freak out.

Well, don’t freak out. It’s not worth freaking out over, trust me, because — well, what’s the worst that can happen? You can get a few more credit cards in your name and put your expenses on those, and pay way too high of an interest rate. That’s about the worst that could happen, and even in that scenario, you can get over until you reach grad school and your loan limits skyrocket.

I don’t have a bad credit score – I’ve had two credit cards, but I cut one up & just make payments on the account. I always pay above the minimum fee & have never made a late payment, but I still have debt.

If you have a good credit score and you’ve never had a late payment, then that’s actually a great situation. Don’t screw that up — don’t make any late payments, ever. Even if they’re the minimum.

I checked my credit score about a month ago & read that it’s pretty good for my age (22), but I don’t know if that alone is going to help me in getting a loan without a co-signer.

In fact, it’s just about the ONLY thing that’ll help you get a loan without a cosigner. Your credit score is your primary weapon when it comes to — well, being issued credit. 🙂

So, my questions: Should I use the government loans I am receiving to completely pay off my credit cards so it makes my credit score look better, & then apply for private loans?

First, let me kill a misconception you’ve got hidden in there. Your credit score doesn’t necessarily get better by paying off all your credit card debt. In fact, it gets better steadily over time by consistently making on-time payments, and if you’re not making those payments, you’re not enhancing that track record.

However, you’re probably not paying any interest right now on your student loans (if they’re subsidized), so sure, you could pay your credit cards off and save some interest over the long run. However, I’d only do that if you’re going to lean on your credit cards this year if you need them.

If you’re going to leave your credit cards ripped up and out of use — then no, don’t use your loans to pay them off. You’ve gotta stay liquid at all times — meaning, you need access to money, whether it’s cash in hand (from loans) credit cards.

But don’t do it to improve your credit score, because that probably won’t happen.

Are there any recommended private (bank?) loan sources that apply to students without co-signers?

Check out a site called SimpleTuition. They’re a legit middleman site that is connected to lots of reputable lenders.

Should I just give up hope, drop some classes & graduate late, & pick a job back up so I don’t starve?

Well, if you spread the above-mentioned workload over two semesters instead of one, I wouldn’t blame you. But if you want to do it your way, I think you can still make it work.

Please help!!! Thank you for anything you can offer!

It ain’t much, ma’am, but you can have all I got. 🙂 (I know, I’m having way too much fun with this Outlaw theme).

— What about you guys — got any advice for Sarah? Do you need private student loans & no cosigner? Let us know in the comments below.

10 thoughts on “Private Student Loans & No Cosigner?”

  1. Sterling Jim Feeser

    Sarah, I am a parent and to say the least, I would be very proud of you and what you have done in order to obtain an education; it is too bad your parents do not see what you have accomplished!!! Please contact the financial aid office at your college. Perhaps there is extra funding there. I know there are many web sites for subsidized and unsubsidized loans. Does you state have any college funds you could access such as PHEAA in Pennsylvania? Are you sure you have used all of your government loans? I wish you the Best in your endeavors and I know you will find a solution to this problem.

    Concerned Parent
    Sterling Jim Feeser

  2. Because your spam blocker won’t let me post properly, I’m going to post this in 2 parts and hopefully it will work

    Wow, I don’t really have a lot of helpful advice but this is my life in a nutshell. I’m also 22, though quite a few years from graduating and also have family that could “on paper” help me out as a co-signer but refuse to due to similar reasons. I also don’t have very good credit on my own (even though I also made payments on time my debt to income ratio was too high), so there was no chance that I could get private loan without a co-signer

    What ended up helping me was a state grant program which gave me 2,000 dollars as a “scholarship.” This amount didn’t go into my Expected Family Contribution (EFC) gap, but it DID reduce the amount of subsidized federal loans I was getting. This in turn allowed me to take out MORE in unsubsidized loans (which aren’t need based and DID help to take care of my EFC gap).

    Find out if you are maxed out on unsubsidized government loans. Your school won’t always offer you the most that you can get because they either expect you to make up the income out of pocket or for your family to help out. If you aren’t maxed then you can request the school allow you to take more and as long as you aren’t exceeding your Cost of Attendance and the maximums for fed loans, they pretty much have to increase it upon your request. Since these types of loans aren’t credit based you don’t have to worry abut that aspect.

  3. Part 2:

    If you ARE maxed out, find out if there is a way for you to reduce your subsidized loans (through grants or scholarships, with your record it sounds like you should be eligible for something). These types of money (grants/scholarships) won’t go directly to your gap in most cases, but if they can reduce your subsidized loans you can increase your unsubsidized loans and get money that way.

    Anyway I hope these suggestions helped. Good luck with school

  4. See her situation isn’t as bad as mine. She at least has the credit to apply for a loan by herself. I’m not that lucky. My credit was distorted when I was 17 and someone used all of my information to go on a shopping spree. There is no one I can goto to cosign for me, no one in my family has the credit and on top of all of that I can’t go back to school without paying for it myself. Without a Private Student Loan that’s not going to happen, I don’t make enough, and just transferring schools isn’t an options. So what do I do?

    1. Maybe you should stop complaining and do something for yourself instead of ruining an advice thread for someone else.

  5. I’m a little confused here. If she’s only got 15k in loans going in as a senior, there’s no way in hell she’s maxed out her government loan availability. Would taking the max in subsidized and unsubsidized loans solve this issue? Were the 5k/year being used for tuition, or for living expenses? I’m asking that question because if her tuition is already being paid (either by parents or by grants or a combination thereof), then simply taking the max in sub/unsub loans should be sufficient to cover living expenses (even if it means streamlining those living expenses by getting rid of cable/internet, reducing phone plans, tightening the food budget, adding a roommate/finding a cheaper place to live, selling car, etc.). If the 5k is for tuition, then it makes more sense that the annual cap on gov’t loans wouldn’t cover all the living expenses and the addition of private loans does make more sense.

  6. I’m more or less in the same boat and after many conversations using strong words with my Financial Aid “counselor” I can tell you this much.

    If you’re getting loans I presume you have filed your FAFSA. If you aren’t eligible for Grants/Scholarships in the first place, make an appointment with your Fin. Aid office & ask them to audit your FAFSA. Depending on situations they may be able to say you actually should get more aid than your FAFSA leads the govmt to believe. Hopefully this would mean grants 🙂 Also, as a senior btwn both loans you should be eligible for about 5k per semester with both sub and unsub loans.

    Hope this helps!

    1. Yeah, as a senior you definitely get more Unsub and Sub loans. I had over 10k a year in scholarship until I got “involved,” in partying my freshmen year as a student. Lost it all, and even as a sophomore I’m using nothing other than my subsidized and unsub. loans, even for cost of living and books. And I live with my girlfriend, going to UTC. Needless to say, things aren’t easy, but what in life is? My loans only max out at 5k/semester btw, and like I said, I’m only a sophomore.

  7. I’m in a similar boat, except much more debt and lots of school still left. What I’ve had to do the past 3 semesters is only go to school half time on what the government has provided in loans and work full time. No money or time for fun things but since school is my priority in life right now I’ve had to sacrifice other activities. At least this year I qualified for the pell grant so I can work full time and have 3 classes instead of 2 woohoo.

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