Refinancing your student loans can be an excellent way to save money on interest, lower your monthly payment, and consolidate student loan debt. However, refinancing with a private lender makes it so you lose access to federal perks, such as federal loan forgiveness programs. This is true whether you choose to refinance with or without a cosigner.
A cosigner is someone who takes on loan repayment responsibility if the primary borrower falls behind on payments. If you want to refinance without a cosigner, you must meet the loan criteria on your own. Without a cosigner, you will also be 100% responsible for the loan. If you default on payments, it could impact your credit.
If refinancing seems like a reasonable course of action to make your student loans more manageable, it’s best to understand what it looks like to refinance student loans without a cosigner. Here’s what you need to know.
What Does It Mean to Refinance Student Loans Without a Cosigner?
Refinancing your student loans means you take out another loan with a refinance lender to pay off your outstanding student debt balance. You then make monthly payments to the new refinance lender. The goal of refinancing is to save money by qualifying for a lower interest rate and more favorable terms. Be aware, though, that refinancing disqualifies you from federal student loan forgiveness programs.
Like other types of credit, you can apply for a student loan refinance with a cosigner. Borrowers who can’t qualify independently for credit typically apply with a cosigner who can boost their application odds and help them qualify for the most competitive rates. Additionally, the cosigner takes on the responsibility of the debt. If you default on your loan payments, the cosigner will inherit the responsibility of repayment.
When you refinance your student loans without a cosigner, it means that you’re fully responsible for the loan. It also means that you must meet the approval requirements, such as having a good credit score and being in good financial standing.
Benefits of Refinancing Student Loans Without a Cosigner
Refinancing your student loans without a cosigner comes with a few benefits.
Refinancing student loans without a cosigner is a good way to build financial confidence. Applying for and making payments on your refinance loan may give you a sense of accomplishment. The confidence you build from paying off your refinance loan can trickle into other aspects of your life and set you up for a financially secure future.
Not only that, but repaying student loans can help you build credit as long as you make your payments on time each month.
Recommended: How Do Student Loans Affect Your Credit Score?
You’re Solely Responsible for the Debt
If you choose to refinance your student loans without a cosigner, you’re allowing yourself to build your credit and take full responsibility for your debt.
When you refinance with a cosigner, you’re both equally responsible for the debt. If you make your payments on time, this can be a good thing. However, you both may experience financial consequences if you default on your student loan payment. Since the cosigner is also responsible for the debt, default could hurt both of your credit scores and chances of getting new credit.
Damaging your cosigner’s credit could cause a rift in your relationship, and no one wants that. If you refinance without a cosigner, any financial distress will only impact your finances.
Downsides of Refinancing Student Loans Without a Cosigner
While refinancing your student loans without a cosigner can improve your financial confidence, there are also some drawbacks to not applying with a cosigner.
Potentially Higher Interest Rates
Your credit score helps lenders determine your interest rate. Usually, those with the highest credit scores get the most favorable rates. Because of that, including a cosigner with excellent credit on your loan application can be advantageous, even if you meet the eligibility criteria yourself. A cosigner can enhance your creditworthiness and reduce the perceived risk, making you a more attractive borrower. This could result in a lower interest rate being offered to you.
Remember, the lower the interest rate, the more money you can save on your loan.
Can Be Harder to Get Approved
Finding a loan can be challenging if you don’t meet a lender’s refinance eligibility requirements. Adding a cosigner helps improve your odds because they take on the risk of the debt, too.
You’ll Lose Access to Federal Benefits
When you refinance your student loans with a private lender, whether you use a cosigner or not, you lose access to federal protections. For example, if you’re struggling to pay your federal student loans, you can enroll in an income-driven repayment plan. With this plan, your payment is based on your income and your family size, possibly bringing it down to zero. Make sure you don’t foresee yourself ever needing this or other federal benefits before deciding to refinance your student loans.
How to Refinance If You Can’t Find a Cosigner
When you refinance your student loans without a cosigner, you must provide essential information to prove your eligibility. Most lenders require borrowers to be 18 years or older, be employed or have income from another source, and have a decent credit score. Here are some other requirements it’s important to be aware of.
Qualifying With Your Own Credit Score
Lenders use various factors to determine what credit score makes you eligible for a refinance loan. The FICO® credit score scale ranges from 300 to 850, and those with the highest scores will qualify for the most competitive rates and terms.
Typically, lenders require primary borrowers to have at least a 670 credit score to qualify. If your credit score isn’t quite there yet, it may serve you best to refinance your student loans with a cosigner.
Debt-to-Income Ratio Requirements
Another factor lenders consider is your debt-to-income ratio, or DTI. This ratio informs lenders about the proportion of your monthly income utilized to repay debts compared to the amount of income that flows into your household.
To calculate your DTI, add up your monthly debt and then divide by your income before taxes (gross income). The lower your DTI, the lower the risk you’ll be to lenders. Ideally, you’ll want a DTI below 40%. If your DTI exceeds this amount, focus on paying down debt before you refinance student loans without a cosigner.
Employment Status and Income
To qualify for a student loan refinance without a cosigner, you must either:
• be presently employed,
• generate revenue from alternative sources,
• or have an employment offer scheduled to commence within the next 90 days.
But remember, all lenders use different employment criteria to determine eligibility. Make sure you check with your lender to find out what they require.
Length of Credit History
Lastly, your credit history plays a role in your refinance loan approval. Your credit history includes your total debt, credit accounts (past and present), and your payment history. In addition, your credit history helps lenders determine how responsible you are with credit.
Tips on Refinancing Student Loans Without a Cosigner
Fortunately, it’s possible to refinance student loans without a cosigner. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Find a Lender With an Alternative Credit Check
Suppose you’re struggling to obtain approval for a loan without a cosigner. In that case, you may consider searching for a lender that employs an alternative credit screening process. Some lenders, for example, might provide a different pathway to approval that involves assessing your academic achievements, area of study, likelihood of graduation, and projected income to ascertain whether you qualify for a loan or refinancing.
Note that if you choose to use a lender with an alternative credit check, it could result in a higher interest rate for your loan refinancing.
Build Your Credit Score
Your credit score is one of the most important driving factors of loan approval. Usually, lenders want to see a credit score that hovers around 670 to qualify for a student refinance loan. If your credit score is less than 670, you may not qualify for the loan or you could receive a higher interest rate, which would defeat the purpose of refinancing.
It’s a good idea to take the time to build your credit before refinancing. Making on-time payments and paying down debt are two ways to do so.
Then, once you build your credit score, you can apply for a refinance loan and receive a more favorable rate.
Ensure You Have a Stable Income
Another critical factor lenders look at to determine your refinance loan approval is your income. The minimum income threshold varies across lenders, but typically lenders want you to make at least $20,000 annually.
If you just graduated college or are looking for a new job, you may need to hold off applying for refinancing until you have a stable income and can afford the new monthly payment.
Recommended: Student Loan Refinancing Calculator
Compare Lenders Before Applying
Student refinance loan criteria vary by lender, so comparing your options can increase your chances of approval and help you secure the most favorable rates and terms.
Most lenders will first prequalify you for the loan, which allows you to review the projected interest rates and conditions without committing to the loan. Prequalification only requires the lender to complete a soft inquiry of your credit, meaning it won’t impact your credit score.
Get a Cosigner Release on Your Student Loans
Another option is to proceed with a cosigner and, after that, seek a cosigner release for your student loan. This release implies that the cosigner is discharged from the loan obligation if you meet specific criteria, such as fulfilling a minimum payment requirement.
After the release is approved, the cosigner is no longer held responsible for your debt if you default on your loan.
Refinancing Student Loans With SoFi
You can refinance your student loans without a cosigner, but you must meet the lender’s requirements. Most lenders require a credit score of at least 670 and a debt-to-income ratio below 40% to qualify for the best rates. If you have both of those, refinancing without a cosigner is worth considering.
SoFi offers a fast, easy online application, live customer support, no application or origination fees, and no prepayment penalties.
Does refinancing a student loan release the cosigner?
Yes. When you refinance, you can remove the existing cosigner from the previous loan.
Can you refinance student loans without a cosigner?
Yes. As long as you meet the approval requirements, such as being employed, having decent credit, and having an income source, you can refinance your student loans without a cosigner.
Is it more difficult to refinance student loans without a cosigner?
The difficulty of approval depends on your financial situation. You may be fine qualifying without a cosigner if you have excellent credit and steady income. On the other hand, if your credit needs work or you’re unemployed, you may not qualify without a cosigner.
Photo credit: iStock/fizkes
Student Loan Refinancing
If you are a federal student loan borrower you should take time now to prepare for your payments to restart, including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. (You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.) 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, such as the SAVE Plan, or extended repayment plans.
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Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .
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.