Unlike other forms of consumer debt, student loans receive special protections under current laws ranging from collection to bankruptcy. This special status applies not only to the primary borrower (the student) but also to any co-signer on the student loan.
Student loans are one of the hardest types of debt to shake. Current U.S. bankruptcy law allows a court to discharge student loans in bankruptcy only in the narrowest circumstances. In fact, the legal requirements for discharging education loans are so formidable to meet that most bankruptcy attorneys avoid student loan cases altogether.
Since so few student loan borrowers qualify for bankruptcy discharge under the law, the vast majority of student loan debt is carried until the borrower repays the loan or dies — although some non-federal student loans even survive death, passing the debt on to the borrower’s co-signer.
Co-Signer Requirements of Student Loans
Most government-issued student loans don’t require a co-signer. Federal Stafford student loans and Perkins student loans are awarded to students without a credit check or co-signer. The one exception would be federal Grad PLUS loans, which are credit-based graduate student loans.
Federal PLUS loans for parents are also credit-based and may, in certain cases, require a co-signer for the parents to be able to take out the loan. However, the credit requirements for federal PLUS parent loans and for federal Grad PLUS student loans are much less stringent than the credit requirements for non-federal private student loans.
Private student loans are credit-based loans issued by private lenders or banks. Under current credit criteria, most students, who typically have little or no established credit history, will require a co-signer in order to qualify for a private student loan.
Typically, a co-signer is a relative who agrees to pay the balance of any co-signed student loans if the student fails to repay the loan, although a family relationship is not a requirement. A student may have an unrelated co-signer.