How to Manage When Parents and Kids Both Have Student Loans

By Melissa Brock · April 24, 2024 · 9 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

How to Manage When Parents and Kids Both Have Student Loans

When both parents and kids in one family have student loans, you may benefit from a game plan about how to handle the debt and the stress that can go along with it. Perhaps the student is still in college and the parent is reaching the end of their payments. Or maybe the parent is currently getting a degree, and the child with student loans has just graduated and is living at home.

Whatever your particular situation may be, there is a silver lining when parents and kids both have student loans. You can all work together as a unit toward the same goal: to pay them off in the most manageable way possible.

Here, you’ll learn about the financial impacts of student loans, repayment strategies, how to prioritize financial security, and how to support each other. While being in debt can be hard, arming yourself with knowledge is a solid step forward.

Understand the Financial Impact

Student loans can have several impacts on individuals of any age. It can alter your budget and your debt-to-income ratio (also known as your DTI), meaning the amount of debt you carry versus your earnings. This, in turn, can make lenders less likely to offer you loans or credit, or do so at the most favorable rates.

To look at the big picture, student debt could affect your ability to do the following:

•  Purchase housing, including renting an apartment or qualifying for a mortgage

•  Get married due to financial setbacks and can also add stress to a marriage

•  Commit to attending graduate school

•  Build long-term savings

But keep in mind, plenty of people have student loans and achieve these things, whether the debt means a delay in plans or they find a way to forge ahead. And know that people without student loans also face financial challenges: Perhaps they have a lot of credit card debt or a mortgage that is difficult to pay. Know that you are not alone in having financial challenges.

If student debt proves to be really unmanageable, it can affect other areas of your life as well, and the consequences of default can range from ineligibility for more federal financial aid, having a default reported to credit bureaus, credit score impact, and paycheck garnishment.

Of course, you want to avoid these scenarios. So if your family unit has multiple members with student loans, it’s wise to start by having open communication between parents and kids. Take the following steps:

1.   Talk with each other. Don’t sweep the topic under the rug. Talking about it together can help you both share knowledge, support one another emotionally during what can be a difficult time, and come up with ideas for tackling your debt.

2.   Total it up. Identify the total student loan debt for parents and kids. Break it up individually and figure out how much you both owe and the types of loans you have. Federal or private? High interest rate or low interest rate? When does the loan interest accrue? Only after you map it all out can you see exactly what’s going on.

3.   Explore the implications of student loan debt on future financial goals. How will student loan debt affect your future financial goals? Writing down your future financial goals can help you create goals for moving forward.

4.   Budget together. Finding a budget that helps you manage and track your finances is crucial. Share learning about the different budgeting techniques available, experiment with them (including apps that may be provided by your bank), and land on a system that helps you.

💡 Quick Tip: Often, the main goal of refinancing is to lower the interest rate on your student loans — federal and/or private — by taking out one loan with a new rate to replace your existing loans. Refinancing makes sense if you qualify for a lower rate and you don’t plan to use federal repayment programs or protections.

Create a Repayment Strategy

Next, you can create a repayment strategy. Both parents and students can follow these steps:

•  Understand the loans. Particularly in the child’s case, do they understand all the terms, including interest rate, repayment schedule, and cosigned loans? Cosigning means that the parents signed to obtain loans on their behalf. A Direct PLUS loan is a loan made to a parent to pay for a student’s education and cannot transfer to the child. The parent is legally responsible for repaying the loan.

•  Look into repayment plans. Will you stick with the Standard Repayment plan or would a Graduated or Extended plan work better? Reach out to your loan servicer to find out if you qualify for an income-driven repayment plan. An income-driven repayment plan bases your payments on income and family size. It can help ensure that you make manageable payments every month.

You might also benefit from learning about the SAVE Plan, which replaces the REPAYE Plan, and can make debt repayment more manageable for some borrowers.

•  See if you qualify for student loan forgiveness. If a government or nonprofit organization employs you, you might qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, or PSLF. If you qualify, you could have the remaining balance on your federal student loans forgiven. In other words, you won’t have to pay them back.

•  Consider consolidating federal student loans. Consolidating means combining one or more federal education loans into a new Direct Consolidation loan to lower your monthly payment amount or gain access to federal forgiveness programs.

•  Pay extra toward the principal. You can pay extra toward the principal, meaning you make more payments toward your loans every month — the principal is the amount you owe on your loans. This can help speed up repayment and potentially lower the amount of interest you pay over the life of the loan.

•  Consider refinancing student loans. You can also explore refinancing your student loans, which means replacing your current student loans with private student loans. This might enable you to get a simpler single monthly payment that is more affordable. However, it’s important to know these two facts:

◦  When you refinance federal student loans with private ones, you forfeit federal benefits and protections, such as deferment and forgiveness. For this reason, think carefully about which option best suits your needs.

◦  When you refinance with an extended term, you may get a lower monthly payment, but you could pay more interest over the life of the loan. This knowledge can help you make an informed decision.

Yes, that’s a lot of information to digest and contemplate. What’s the right student loan debt solution? Ultimately, it’s determining the repayment strategy that will help you meet your financial goals while paying off your loans. Talking to your loan servicer about options can help, as can speaking with a nonprofit credit counselor who specializes in managing student loans.

Take control of your student loans.
Ditch student loan debt for good.

Prioritize Financial Security

What does it mean to prioritize financial security? Financial security means having the money to cover the necessities in your life, like food, water, and shelter, and having a safety net, like an emergency fund and having money stashed away for your future retirement. It also means balancing loan repayments with these other financial obligations.

Building financial stability could also include:

•  Creating a budget: Creating a budget involves totaling up your income and subtracting your expenses, choosing a budgeting system, like an app, and tracking your expenses. Many experts recommend the 50/30/20 budget rule, which advocates spending 50% of your budget on necessities, 30% on wants, and 20% on savings and additional debt repayment.

•  Putting together an emergency fund: Try to put some money aside for an emergency fund. Many experts recommend at least $1,000 to start and then go on to save three to six months’ worth of emergency expenses. That said, $1,000 can be a significant chunk of money. Setting up automated deductions from checking into a high-yield savings account ($20 or so per paycheck is fine) can get you started.

Building an emergency fund can help you combat unexpected expenses that may come up, like a job loss.

•  Setting long-term financial goals: What long-term financial goals do you have? Set some long-term financial goals, such as saving for retirement or achieving homeownership with student loans. Both parents and college-aged or newly graduated kids can do this with a financial advisor who can help everyone balance loan repayments alongside other financial aspirations.

Support Each Other

This is a biggie, emotionally and financially. As you discuss your money goals, consider creating a joint plan. Kids should remember that parents still need support throughout this journey, and the reverse is true. Paying off debt and staying motivated during your repayment journey can be incredibly stressful.

Reach out to the people who will support you in your journey, and that includes resources and support networks for guidance, such as your student loan servicer, a financial advisor, and, if stress is an issue, a mental health provider.

Planning for the Future

Planning for the future may seem overwhelming while managing student loan debt. However, you don’t have to go it alone. Consider meeting with a financial advisor to discuss how to balance today (as in, your student loan repayment strategies) and tomorrow, such as putting away some funds for retirement.

It can be a good idea to have an objective, outside expert come in and evaluate your situation so they can help you devise a plan of action — in both kids’ and parents’ situations. You may feel as if you can’t possibly save for the future while focused on paying off your student debt, but a trained professional can often offer wise guidance.

Both parents and students may also wonder how to save for college for future generations. Ultimately, it’s important to secure your financial path first to reach your long-term financial goals and achieve financial freedom before worrying about future generations. After all, grandchildren can also borrow for college, but you can’t borrow for retirement. That said, this is another good topic to broach with a financial expert who is familiar with student loans and saving.

The Takeaway

Student debt can be challenging on its own, but when two generations of the same family are paying off their loans, it can feel overwhelming. It’s important to remember that student debt is a phase you are moving through, like paying off a car loan or mortgage. It doesn’t define you, nor is it with you forever. By supporting one another emotionally, budgeting well, and exploring repayment options, families can take control of their debt and pay it off in the most manageable way possible.

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.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.


How does student debt affect families?

Student debt can affect families in many ways, from stretching the family budget thin to making it difficult to save for long-term financial goals. However, families that devise a plan and explore their loan repayment options can pay off their debt and work towards future goals successfully.

What is the average student loan debt?

The average student loan debt is $37,718 on average per borrower of federal loans — about 92% are federal student loans and the remaining are private student loans. Including both federal and private loans, borrowers in the U.S. owe about $1.75 trillion in student loan debt.

Are children responsible for parents’ student loan debt?

No, children are not responsible for parents’ student loan debt. However, parents may be legally obligated to repay student loans on behalf of a child if they took out Parent PLUS loans.

Photo credit: iStock/Daniel Balakov

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.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see Equal Housing Lender.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.


All your finances.
All in one app.

SoFi QR code, Download now, scan this with your phone’s camera

All your finances.
All in one app.

App Store rating

SoFi iOS App, Download on the App Store
SoFi Android App, Get it on Google Play

TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender