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What Is a Parent PLUS Loan?

August 27, 2021 · 4 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

What Is a Parent PLUS Loan?

When an undergraduate’s financial aid doesn’t meet the cost of attendance at a college or career school, parents may take out a Direct PLUS Loan in their name to bridge the gap.

There are benefits and challenges to this kind of federal student loan that’s available to parents when their child is enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school.

A ‘Direct’ Difference

First, to clarify, there are federally funded Direct Loans that are taken out by students themselves. Then there are federally funded Direct PLUS Loans, commonly called Parent PLUS Loans when taken out by parents to help dependent undergrads.

To apply for a Parent PLUS Loan, students or their parents must first fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).

Then a parent applies for a PLUS Loan on the Federal Student Aid site. A credit check will be conducted to look for adverse events, but eligibility does not depend on the borrower’s credit score or debt-to-income ratio.

Pros of Parent PLUS Loans

At least 3.5 million parents (and in some cases, stepparents) have taken out Parent PLUS Loans to lower the cost of college. Here are some upsides.

The Sky’s Almost the Limit

The government removed annual and lifetime borrowing limits from Parent PLUS Loans in 2013, so parents, if they qualify, can take out sizable loans for the student’s total cost of attendance each academic year, minus any financial aid the student has qualified for.

Fixed Rate

The interest rate is fixed for the life of the loan. That makes it easier to budget for the monthly payments.

Flexible Repayment Plans

The options include a standard repayment plan with fixed monthly payments for 10 years, and an extended repayment plan with fixed or graduated payments for 25 years.

More College Access

PLUS Loans can allow children from families of more limited means to attend the college of their choice.

Loan Interest May Be Deductible

You may deduct $2,500 or the amount of interest you actually paid during the year, whichever is less, if you meet income limits.

Cons of Parent PLUS Loans

Many Parents Get in Too Deep

The program allows parents to borrow without regard to their ability to repay, and to borrow liberally, as long as they don’t have an “adverse credit history .” (If they did have a negative credit event, they may still be able to receive a PLUS Loan if they file an extenuating circumstances appeal or apply with a cosigner.)

Many low- and middle-income families that borrowed are in financial peril , according to The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit news organization.

And if a student drops out, parents are still on the hook.

Interest Accrual

PLUS loans are not subsidized, which means they accrue interest while your child is in school at least half-time. You’ll need to start payments within 60 days of the loan’s final disbursement, but in certain cases, parents can request a six-month deferment. Interest will still accrue during that time.

The Rate

The current interest rate for Direct PLUS Loans is 6.28% . (The rate has averaged over 7% from mid-2006 to mid-2021.)

Origination Fee

The government charges parents an additional fee of 4.228% of the total loan.

Relatively Fewer Protections

Borrowers who struggle with payments typically have access only to the most expensive income-driven repayment plan , which requires them to pay 20% of their discretionary income for 25 years, with any remaining loan balance forgiven.

Options to Pay for College

Instead of PLUS Loans, private student loans may be used to fill gaps in need.

Private lenders that issue private student loans typically look at an applicant’s credit score and income and those of any cosigner. The lenders set their own interest rates, term lengths, and repayment plans. Some do not charge an origination fee.

You may want to compare annual percentage rates among lenders, and decide if a fixed or variable interest rate would be better for your financial situation.

Any time a student or parent needs to borrow money for education, a good plan is a good idea.

Sometimes scholarships can significantly reduce the amount of money that needs to be paid out of pocket for college, and personal savings and wages can also help. But it isn’t unusual for students to also need to take out loans.

Refinancing a Parent PLUS Loan

The goal of Parent PLUS Loan refinancing is to get a lower interest rate than the federal government is charging.

And student loan refinancing may allow children to transfer PLUS Loan debt into their name.

Refinancing could potentially lower your interest rate, which gives you the option to either:

•  Reduce your monthly payments

•  Pay the loan off more quickly, which may allow you to pay less interest over the life of the loan

Note that Parent PLUS Loans come with certain borrower protections, like the income-based repayment option and Public Service Loan Forgiveness, that you would lose if you refinanced.

Eligibility for refinancing Parent PLUS loans depends on factors such as your credit history, income, employment, and educational background.

The Takeaway

Millions of parents have used federal Parent PLUS Loans to help pay for their children’s college education. Anyone tempted to take out one of these loans may want to know the pros, cons, and options.

SoFi makes it fast and easy to apply to refinance Parent PLUS Loans (and for your children to apply to refinance their student loans, too).

SoFi also has led the way in issuing private student loans with no fees.

Check out what kind of rates and terms you can get in just a few minutes.


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Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

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