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College loans for parents with bad credit

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Our goal here at Credible Operations, Inc., NMLS Number 1681276, referred to as “Credible” below, is to give you the tools and confidence you need to improve your finances. Although we do promote products from our partner lenders who compensate us for our services, all opinions are our own.

If you’d like to help your child pay for their college education, you might consider taking out student loans. But since parent loans usually require good credit to qualify, you may find it difficult to get approved if you don’t have less-than-perfect credit. Fortunately, you may still be able to get a federal or private student loan even if you have bad credit.

College loans for parents with bad credit

It can be hard to get a college loan with bad credit, but here are a few options that you might want to explore.

Federal parent PLUS loans

Parent PLUS loans are federal loans for parents who need help covering their child’s college costs. You may be able to borrow up to your child’s cost of attendance minus any other financial aid they receive, such as grants, scholarships, and other loans.

Just like most federal student loans, parent PLUS loans have fixed interest rates that are set for each school year. But these loans don’t have a grace period after the student leaves school. You may, however, request a six-month deferment. 

To qualify for a parent PLUS loan, you must:

  1. Be the parent of a dependent undergraduate student attending an eligible school at least half-time.
  2. Have good credit history.
  3. Meet federal student aid eligibility requirements.

If you’re interested in this option, you’ll need to fill out a Direct PLUS Loan application at StudentAid.gov. Be prepared to share a variety of personal and financial information for both you and your child. You’ll also have to agree to a credit check and sign a Direct PLUS Loan Master Promissory Note upon approval. 

Private student loans

Private student loans are offered by private lenders, such as banks, credit unions, and online lenders. Once your child has exhausted all scholarship, grant, and federal student loan options, private student loans may fill any financial gaps they might have. 

While every lender has their own unique criteria, you’ll usually need good-to-excellent credit to qualify for a private student loan. 

Fortunately, some lenders have lenient requirements and are willing to lend to borrowers with lower credit scores. Keep in mind that if you do get approved for a private student loan with bad credit, you’ll likely have to settle for a higher interest rate, which can increase your overall cost of borrowing. 

To apply for a private student loan, do your research and compare all your options so you can find the right one for your unique situation. 

Credible makes it easy to compare your prequalified rates from our partner lenders. Note that while some of these lenders have high required minimum credit scores, you might be able to qualify if you apply with a creditworthy cosigner.

Credible lets you compare private student loan rates from multiple lenders, all in one place.

Next steps if a parent is denied a student loan

If your credit isn’t ideal, and you’re unable to land a student loan for your child, there are other opportunities to help pay for college, including: 

Grants and scholarships

Grants and scholarships are a cost-saving way to cover college costs because you don’t have to pay them back. A number of scholarships are available, including need-based scholarships, merit scholarships, athletic scholarships, and specialty scholarships. 

You can find them through various scholarship websites, colleges, and nonprofit organizations. The more scholarships your child applies for, the greater their chances are of securing gift aid for college.

Grants differ from merit-based scholarships in that they’re typically offered to students based on financial need. This means your child doesn’t have to write a long essay or have the best grade-point average to qualify for a grant. They can get approved based on their financial situation. 

A few examples of federal grants offered by the U.S. Department of Education include: 

Boost your credit score

If you don’t need a student loan right away, it might be worth your time and effort to improve your credit score. This way, you can qualify for college loans in the future. Make sure to pay your bills on time, keep your balances low, and only apply for new credit when necessary. 

Don’t forget to visit AnnualCreditReport.com to pull copies of your credit reports from all three bureaus and dispute any errors you may find.

Other ways to help

As a parent, you can support your child with college costs in other ways. If you’re not eligible for a parent PLUS loan, for example, help your child decide if it makes sense to borrow a higher amount of Direct Unsubsidized Loans. They’ll need to reach out to their school’s financial aid office for more information on how to do so.

You can also apply for a parent PLUS loan with an endorser. This can be anyone — except for your child — who has strong credit and is willing to share responsibility for the loan. Likewise, you might want to apply for a private student loan with a cosigner, which may be a friend or family member with good credit. But keep in mind that if you default on your payments, your cosigner, will be responsible for them.

Another idea is to explore other, more affordable college options with your child. For example, depending on their career goals, they might look into a trade school. Or, if they’re not yet completely sure of their desired career path, they might spend two years at a community college then transfer to a college or university to complete their degree. 

If they have their heart set on an expensive out-of-state school, educate them on quality in-state options that are more affordable. Encourage them to be flexible and creative in finding ways to save dollars on their education. 

With Credible, you can compare private student loan rates without affecting your credit.

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