College is expensive, and for many families, it’s a group effort to pay tuition, fees, and other expenses. Both parents and children may choose to take out student loans. And in some cases, parents might also help pay off their child’s student loan debt after graduation. But before you take out your checkbook, there are some things to be considered.
Ahead, we look at ways parents can help their children pay off their loans as well as pros and cons of helping with such a big financial expense.
Things to Consider Before Paying Off Your Children’s Student Loans
While there are no rules restricting parents from paying back their children’s student loans, there are a few things to think about before you do.
1. Gift Taxes
If you choose to pay off your child’s student loan in a lump sum, you may need to file a gift tax return and pay any applicable gift tax . The person who makes the payment as a gift pays the tax, not the recipient, according to IRS guidelines. In 2023, a parent may gift their child up to $17,000 before the gift tax comes into play (or two parents could gift one child up to $34,000). Even once that threshold is reached however, a tax is not immediately triggered; rather, the excess gift is added to the lifetime gift tax exclusion, which in 2023 is set at $12.92 million. In other words, paying off your children’s student loans is unlikely to lead to tax liability on its own.
Parents should consider how helping their child (or children) pay off student loans might affect their retirement plans. Because parents are closer to retirement age than their adult children, it is often difficult for parents to build back up their nest egg if they deplete some or all of it helping pay back their children’s student loans.
3. Home Equity
Some parents decide to avoid using their retirement funds by tapping their home equity line of credit instead. But before you sign on the dotted line, you might want to consider the repercussions. You will want to make sure you have the necessary time to pay back that line of credit. Many borrowers opt for a 10- or 15- year home equity loan, but that may be risky if you are only 10 years from retirement.
💡 Quick Tip: Enjoy no hidden fees and special member benefits when you refinance student loans with SoFi.
How Parents Can Help Their Children Pay Off Their Student Loans
There’s a lot of factors to consider if you want to help pay off your child’s college loans, especially if you’re nearing retirement. Here are several ways you may want to help your child repay their loan.
1. Making Small Payments During College
Although most student loans don’t need to be repaid until afer your child graduates, making small monthly payments — even as little as $25 a month — while your child is still in college may lower their debt by a few thousand dollars.
2. Making an Occasional Loan Payment as a Gift
When holidays and birthdays come around, instead of buying your child tickets to a concert or the shoes they’ve been coveting, consider making an extra payment on their student loan.
You can ask grandparents and aunts and uncles to do the same, if they are so inclined or have no idea what to give your child for their birthday or the holidays.
Any extra payments beyond the minimum monthly payment should be applied to the principal, not to their next monthly payment. By applying the payment to the loan’s principal balance, they may be able to save on interest payments in the long run. Most loan providers will allow you to make extra principal-only payments.
3. Paying Off Private Loans First
If your child has a mix of private and federal loans, you could offer to pay off the private loan while they continue to make monthly payments on their federal loan. Since private loans typically have higher interest rates, paying that loan off first might go a long way to helping your child pay back their loans quicker.
Not sure what your child’s monthly student loan payments will be? You can use our student loan calculator to estimate how much they could be paying each month. You can then decide if you want to give them money each month to go toward their payments, which in turn can help them pay off their student loans faster.
Furthermore, your child’s federal loans come with certain federal benefits such as income-driven repayment plans, deferment, forbearance, and access to certain loan forgiveness programs. Private loans don’t enjoy those same federal benefits, which may be another argument for paying off private loans first.
4. Helping with Other Expenses
If paying off your child’s student loans is too expensive, consider helping them with some of their other monthly expenses that aren’t as steep. Perhaps pay an unexpected medical bill for them, offer to buy a week’s worth of groceries, or maybe surprise them with dinner and a movie once a month.
5. Considering a Parent PLUS Loan
If your child is still in school, and you want to help them with tuition, you may want to consider a Parent PLUS loan, which is a federal student loan that is available to the parents of a dependent undergraduate student. The interest rate is 8.05% for a Parent PLUS loan disbursed between July 1, 2023, and before July 1, 2024.
While credit scores aren’t considered when determining eligibility for federal student loans, parents cannot typically qualify for these loans with “adverse credit history.”
💡 Quick Tip: Refinancing could be a great choice for working graduates who have higher-interest graduate PLUS loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and/or private loans.
6. Applying for a Private Parent Loan
If you don’t qualify for a federal loan for parents, you may want to consider taking out a private loan to help fund your child’s education. Keep in mind that you will be the only borrower. This is very different from having your child named as the borrower, and you named as the cosigner.
Parents who take out loans need to be careful they aren’t taking on more debt than they can pay back in their lifetime.
7. Refinancing the Student Loans
If you have a Federal Parent PLUS loan, you might be able to save money and simplify your payments by refinancing your Parent PLUS loan.
Or you can help your child refinance their student loans by cosigning and potentially save them money over the life of the loan if you qualify for a lower interest rate. (This is usually true provided you do not extend the loan term.) Borrowers should keep in mind that refinancing their federal loans will disqualify them from all federal benefits, including income-based repayment plans and potential forgiveness.
Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.
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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.