Conventional wisdom has it that getting a student loan is a family affair involving students and their parents. But instead, it is a tag-team effort to find the education financing needed to get a newly-minted college student on campus with enough funding to cover college costs.
The truth is, no law says a student and parent need to both be involved in borrowing money for college, especially when it comes to federal student loans. However, when you think about the sweet spot families should be aiming for with student loans, that makes sense.
- Students need the money to pay for a good college or university and get on with the process of preparing for the real world, primarily through quality academics and internships at good companies.
- Parents want their children to get the financial aid they need to go to college, but ideally, like their names off the loan and no obligations to repay that debt.
There are several ways college students can get student loans without a parent borrower or cosigner. These include federal student loans, increasing federal student loan limits by qualifying as an independent student, getting a private student loan with someone other than the parent as a cosigner, and tuition installment plans.
Read on to learn how to get student loans without your parents’ support.
Focus on Free Money First
It’s always best to exhaust any free financial aid options before turning to a student loan.
Free money includes grants and scholarships, tuition waivers, and gifts from family members like grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Consider tuition installment plans, which let you pay the college bills in monthly installments over the academic term for a small up-front fee.
Perhaps friends and family might be willing to provide a no-interest loan.
Four Action Steps to Get a Student Loan Without a Parent
Although it can be difficult to get a student loan without your parents’ information or credit history to support your application, it is possible, at least for some people. You can get student loans without parents if you’re classified as an independent student, or, in some cases, a dependent student.
If you’re wondering how to get a loan for college without your parents’ help, leverage the right strategies to get a parent-free loan:
1. Fill out the FAFSA form
The one step in the “no-parent” student loan that requires a parent’s involvement is the FAFSA form. The FAFSA is a prerequisite for a student to get a federal student loan. If the student is dependent, parental information is required on the form. Signing the FAFSA does not obligate the parent to borrow or repay their child’s federal student loans.
2. Explore going independent with your college loan
Uncle Sam, via the U.S. Department of Education, does offer various loopholes to move your “dependent” status to an “independent” status.
Students can’t declare themselves independent, even if they live independently and are financially self-sufficient.
There are very few options for becoming independent that are under the student’s control. The main options are getting married, having children or legal dependents other than a spouse, serving on active duty with the U.S. Armed Forces and enrolling in graduate school. Otherwise, the student will have to wait until they turn age 24 and are automatically independent to go to college.
Besides these options, college students can ask the school’s financial aid office for a dependency override in unusual circumstances. But, dependency overrides are very rare and involve extreme cases, such as an abusive household and abandonment.
The college financial aid administrator will not provide a dependency override merely because the parents are unwilling to complete the FAFSA or verification or because the parents are unwilling to pay for college.
Suppose parents can’t or won’t provide their financial information and have cut off all financial support to the student for whatever reason. In that case, the student may qualify for just unsubsidized student loans.
3. Check out tuition installment plans
The vast majority of U.S. colleges and universities offer tuition installment plans that can help you take a bite-sized approach to paying down tuition costs – and curb the need for any student loan. If you’ve saved up enough money, paying your tuition via monthly installments buys you some time to so you don’t need to make that huge upfront, lump-sum payment.
Even if you steer $2,500 of your savings toward $10,000 worth of college tuition costs for a semester, that’s $2,500 less than you’ll need to borrow in a student loan scenario. So ask your bursar’s office about signing up for a tuition payment plan.
Tuition installment plans are also a good option if the student is trying to work their way through college.
4. Check your SAR
Once the FAFSA form is complete, the student and their family will get a Student Aid Report (SAR) in a few days or, more likely, in a few weeks. On that form is all the data recorded on the form by students and parents.
When you get your Student Aid Report, check it thoroughly for accuracy. The information included is used to calculate the amount of money available in financial aid for the student. If the amount isn’t enough for your college costs, the student can apply for federal student loans (as long as they remain under the loan maximum cap) without getting their parents involved.
Consider Alternative Loan Options
As students have sought alternatives to federal and typical private, credit-based student loans, a new type of student loan has become more popular. For example, Edly offers a student loan that does not require a cosigner, or any credit history. Edly’s loans are repaid based on the borrower’s income, with no payments if income is below $30,000. This adds some protection, but eligibility will be determined by your specific program’s graduation and job placement statistics. Edly’s loans are also only available to second semester Juniors, Seniors, and Graduate students.
Hit the Sweet Spot with a Parentless Federal Student Loan
How do you meet those unique goals and get your child on the path to a college degree while keeping mom and dad at arm’s length on any student loan transactions? One good way is a student loan without any parental help.
A “parentless” student loan is easier to achieve than you might think when focusing on public and not private student loans.
Most U.S. college students are eligible for Federal Direct Loans (also known as “Stafford Loans”), which do not depend on the applicant’s credit history and do not require a cosigner. The applicant does need to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which usually requires the parent’s financial information if the student is a dependent student, but this does not obligate the parents to borrow or to cosign the loans.
“Dependent Versus Independent” Student Loan Options
Whether the student is considered a dependent or independent student on the FAFSA affects federal student loan limits.
If the student is independent, parental information is not required on the FAFSA, and the loan limits on the Federal Direct Loans are higher.
How high? This table shows the loan limits based on dependency status as well as Direct subsidized and unsubsidized loan amounts:
Year in College
$5,500 ($3,500 subsidized)
$9,500 ($3,500 subsidized)
$6,500 ($4,500 subsidized)
$10,500 ($4,500 subsidized)
Third and Subsequent Years
$7,500 ($5,500 subsidized)
$12,500 ($5,500 subsidized)
$20,500 (all unsubsidized)
$40,500 (all unsubsidized)
As shown in the table, independent undergraduate students get an additional $4,000 per year in annual loan limits during the first and second years and $5,000 per year during the third and subsequent years.
Graduate students and students in medical school are automatically considered independent students.
In addition, the aggregate loan limits for independent undergraduate students are $57,500, compared with $31,000 for dependent undergraduate students. Graduate students can borrow up to $138,500 ($224,000 for medical school students), including undergraduate student loans.
Graduate students may also be eligible for the Federal Grad PLUS loan, which depends on the borrower’s credit history but does not require a cosigner. However, if the graduate student has an adverse credit history, they may still get a Grad PLUS loan with an endorser, which is like a cosigner.
There is no shortage of caveats in classifying a college student as dependent or independent when qualifying for student loans without parental help.
Uncle San considers you an independent college student if you’re 24 years old (or older) as of December 31 of the financial aid award year. Therefore, you’d qualify for higher loan amounts than a dependent college student.
Additionally, suppose a college student’s parents have both passed on. If the student is a military veteran or if the student is married or has dependents of their own, that student (even if they are an undergraduate) is deemed independent.
Special circumstances may apply, as well. For example, suppose a student’s parents can’t qualify for a Federal Parent PLUS loan because they have bad credit or other financial hardship issues. In that case, the student can qualify for the same loan limits as independent students on their Federal Direct loans.
A Word on Private Student Loans
You can get a private student loan without a parent, as well, but there’s a pretty big catch.
Private student loans generally require a creditworthy cosigner, but the cosigner does not need to be your parents. Someone else with a good or excellent credit score can cosign the loan. However, convincing a non-parent to co-sign a private student loan is hard. If you have a mentor, grandparent, or trusted friend with sterling credit who will cosign your loan, you may be able to qualify for a private student loan without getting your parents involved.
A few private lenders and products, like Ascent’s Non-Cosigned Outcomes-Based Loan, use criteria other than credit and income, such as GPA or major, to establish eligibility.
Keep in mind that private loans do not offer the same repayment options and benefits as federal loans. These include income-driven repayment plans, a chance for subsidized loans, opportunities for deferment or forbearance if you lose your job, the potential for student loan forgiveness, and much more. In addition, private student loans may have lower or higher interest rates than federal student loans, so be sure to do your research.
The Parental View
For parents, there is no obligation to repay a college loan taken out by their student that they didn’t cosign or apply for themselves.
Mom and dad can still contribute to their child’s college education in myriad ways, such as tax-free gifts, college 529 plans, or the American Opportunity Tax Credit, for example. Moreover, they’re free and clear of any legal obligation to repay student-only federal or private loans with these options.
That might be the ideal scenario for parents who want to help out with a child’s college costs – but only on a limited basis where they call the shots.
Alternative Funding Options
It can be difficult to get a student loan with your parents’ help.
If you can’t get a student loan, try these alternative funding options:
- Scholarships. There are a range of nonprofits, professional organizations, and businesses that offer scholarships based on academic merit, financial need, co-curricular talents, and other factors.
- Grants. Likewise, there are a range of federal, state, and private grants available, as well as those offered by colleges and nonprofits.
- Emergency student loans. If you need a short-term loan to cover an emergency situation, your school may be able to help with an emergency student loan.
Dependent vs Independent Student: What’s the Difference?
The federal Government, lenders, colleges, and other organizations categorize students as either dependent or independent based on certain criteria. Anyone studying a graduate or professional degree is seen as independent, while undergraduate students may be categorized as dependent or independent depending on various specific factors. If you’re wondering how to take out a student loan without your parents’ involvement, it’s important to know whether you’re considered an independent or dependent student.
If you meet any of the following requirements, you’ll be seen as independent:
- You’re studying for a master’s degree or a PhD.
- You’re aged 24 years or older on January 1 of the year you apply for financial aid.
- Both your parents died since you were 13, or you’ve been in foster care or a ward of the court since this age.
- A court has ruled that you are an emancipated minor, or awarded legal guardianship of you to someone other than a parent or stepparent.
- You’re married or seperated.
- You have dependents who you will primarily support during the award year.
- You’re an active member or a veteran of the US armed forces.
- You’re either homeless or at risk of homelessness.
At Savingforcollege.com, our goal is to help you make smart decisions about saving and paying for education. Some of the products featured in this article are from our partners from whom we receive compensation, but this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own, not those of any bank, investment manager, or student lender.
Getting a student loan without your parents' information or credit history may be difficult, but it is possible. Independent students and some dependent students can take out federal student loans without parental help. Borrowers can also look into private student loans, which may or may not require a credit history.Can I take out a student loan without my parents? ›
Getting a student loan without your parents' information or credit history may be difficult, but it is possible. Independent students and some dependent students can take out federal student loans without parental help. Borrowers can also look into private student loans, which may or may not require a credit history.How to get a loan without your parents knowing? ›
- Take out a federal student loan as an independent student.
- Pursue unsubsidized loans without your parents' information.
- Find another relative or friend to co-sign a private loan.
- Find private student loans that don't require credit or a co-signer.
If you've been denied a Parent PLUS loan because of an adverse credit history, you can qualify for the loan if you obtain an endorser. An endorser is like a cosigner. The endorser agrees to repay the PLUS loan if the parent defaults or is otherwise unable to repay the debt.How do I pay for college if my parents won't help? ›
- Fill out the FAFSA.
- Apply for scholarships.
- Get a job.
- Look into tax credits for qualifying college expenses.
- Minimize your college costs.
- Research tuition assistance programs.
- Consider taking out federal student loans.
If your parents or guardians refuse to pay for college, your best options may be to file the FAFSA as an independent. Independent filers are not required to include information about their parents' income or assets. As a result, your EFC will be very low and you will probably get a generous financial aid offer.Can an 18 year old get a student loan without a cosigner? ›
Federal student loans do not require a cosigner and come with several benefits not available through private lenders. These benefits include low interest rates and access to income-driven repayment plans and forgiveness programs.How to borrow money for college? ›
How do I get a federal student loan? To apply for a federal student loan, you must first complete and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. Based on the results of your FAFSA form, your college or career school will send you a financial aid offer, which may include federal student loans.Can I get a loan with no money coming in? ›
Some lenders don't have a minimum income requirement, but they still require borrowers to show an income on the loan application. Including income from other sources like child support, alimony and social security payments can help you qualify for a loan.Can a 19 year old get FAFSA if not living with parents? ›
Not living with parents or not being claimed by them on tax forms does not make you an independent student for purposes of applying for federal student aid. Note: Law school and health profession students may be required to provide parent information regardless of their dependency status.
Lenders may look at your employment history, credit score, debt-to-income ratio, and enrollment status at your school. One of the most common reasons why a student might not qualify for a private student loan is because they don't meet their lender's FICO® Credit Score criteria.What happens if I don't get approved for a parent PLUS loan? ›
Get additional Direct Unsubsidized Loans.
But when you're denied for a parent PLUS loan, the school may offer your child the higher maximum amount of unsubsidized loans that is otherwise available only to independent students. Find info about Direct Unsubsidized Loans and how they differ from subsidized loans.
Many parents struggling to repay student loan debt can qualify for loan forgiveness. A federal parent PLUS loan may be eligible for forgiveness through an income-contingent repayment plan or the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. There are also options for parents that take out loans from private lenders.Will I get financial aid if my parents make over $200 K? ›
The good news is that the Department of Education doesn't have an official income cutoff to qualify for federal financial aid. So, even if you think your parents' income is too high, it's still worth applying (plus, it's free to apply).What if my parents won't give me FAFSA information? ›
You must immediately contact your school's financial aid office to discuss the possibility of getting an unsubsidized Direct Loan. The financial aid office may ask for a written statement from your parents, indicating that they refuse to provide their information on the FAFSA form and that they no longer support you.What qualifies as a dependency override? ›
Dependency overrides often involve an involuntary dissolution of the family or situations in which it would be harmful for the student to have contact with their parents. Examples include incarceration or institutionalization of both parents, abuse and abandonment.Can I force my ex to pay for college? ›
Can I force my ex-husband to pay our child's college tuition? The short answer is no; you cannot make an ex pay any form of child support after the child turns 18, including college tuition.Can my ex force me to pay for college? ›
Your ex is not required to contribute
It's a hard pill to swallow, but, in most cases, the noncustodial parent can't be legally forced to pay for college. Under most state laws, child support is only required until the child is 18 or out of high school.
That means parents have no legal obligation to pay for their child's college education — with one exception. If the parents are divorced and the divorce agreement includes paying college costs, one or both parents are legally obligated to pay for college.Can you get a student loan without a parent co signing? ›
You can get a private student loan without a parent, as well, but there's a pretty big catch. Private student loans generally require a creditworthy cosigner, but the cosigner does not need to be your parents. Someone else with a good or excellent credit score can cosign the loan.
Sallie Mae does not require a cosigner if you meet certain criteria to qualify on your own: Student loan borrowers must be 18 years old at the time of application and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident of the country. Student loan borrowers must be enrolled at least part time in a college or university.Is it hard to get a student loan without a cosigner? ›
Federal student loans don't require credit history or a co-signer. They're also the most flexible when it's time to repay, so use them first. But to afford college, some students may need private student loans, which are credit-based. A small number of private lenders offer student loans without a co-signer.What are the 4 types of student loans? ›
There are four types of federal student loans: Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans and Direct Consolidation Loans. Private student loans are issued through institutions like banks, credit unions, schools and even state agencies.What is the easiest way to get money for college? ›
- Fill out the FAFSA. ...
- Contact your financial aid office. ...
- Appeal your financial aid award offer. ...
- Apply for last-minute scholarships. ...
- Compare private student loan lenders. ...
- Get a part-time job.
$57,500 for undergraduates-No more than $23,000 of this amount may be in subsidized loans. $138,500 for graduate or professional students-No more than $65,500 of this amount may be in subsidized loans. The graduate aggregate limit includes all federal loans received for undergraduate study.What is the easiest loan to get? ›
The easiest loans to get approved for are payday loans, car title loans, pawnshop loans and personal loans with no credit check. These types of loans offer quick funding and have minimal requirements, so they're available to people with bad credit.How can I borrow money instantly? ›
- Personal Loan From an Online Lender.
- Credit Card Purchase.
- Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)
- Cash Advance.
- Loan From a Friend or Family Member.
- Retirement Account.
- Loan App.
- Pawn Shop Loan.
If your Universal Credit has been cut because of a sanction or penalty for fraud, you might be able to get some emergency money to help you cover household expenses like food and bills. This is called a 'hardship payment'. A hardship payment is a loan, so you'll usually have to pay it back when your sanction ends.What age does FAFSA stop asking for parents? ›
You can only qualify as an independent student on the FAFSA if you are at least 24 years of age, married, on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, financially supporting dependent children, an orphan (both parents deceased), a ward of the court, or an emancipated minor.How do you qualify as an independent student? ›
- Age 24 or older.
- Graduate or professional student.
- Parent or guardian of at least one dependent child.
- Active-duty military service member or veteran.
- Orphan or ward of the court.
- Emancipated minor.
Unless otherwise noted, “parent” means your legal (biological and/or adoptive) parent or your stepparent. In addition, the rules below apply to your legal parents regardless of their gender. If your parents are living and legally married to each other, answer the questions about both of them.Does Sallie Mae approve everyone? ›
Sallie Mae does not specify a minimum credit score requirement for its student loans. However, a strong credit score can improve your chances of approval for a loan or a better rate. If your credit score may not be good enough, you can get a co-signer with good credit to include on the loan.What do I do if I don't qualify for student loans? ›
Your school may offer an option to advance your financial aid, offer a school-based loan program, or have an emergency aid procedure. Several schools now offer emergency aid opportunities if you experience unexpected expenses or challenges that are making it difficult for you to complete the semester.Is it hard to get approved for a student loan? ›
Private lenders base their lending decisions on various factors. The biggest factor is your credit history. It can be incredibly difficult to get a private student loan with no or bad credit from large financial institutions. Most large banks and student loan lenders have very strict underwriting criteria.Do parents have to apply for parent PLUS loan? ›
You must complete a Direct PLUS Application for each year you wish to receive a parent PLUS loan.Do you have to be a parent for the parent PLUS loan? ›
To be eligible for a Direct PLUS Loan for parents, you must be a biological or adoptive parent (or in some cases a stepparent), not have an adverse credit history, and meet the general eligibility requirements for federal student aid (which the child must meet as well).Who Cannot get student loan forgiveness? ›
What student loans are not eligible for forgiveness? Private student loans, by definition, are private and are not eligible to be forgiven. These are loans the borrower owes to student loan providers and not the federal government.What is a parent PLUS loan? ›
TYPES OF AID. Direct PLUS Loans for parents are unsubsidized loans made to parents of dependent undergraduate students. If a student's parents cannot get a parent PLUS loan, the student may be eligible to receive additional unsubsidized loans. Learn more about parent PLUS loans.Are parent PLUS loans eligible for $10,000 forgiveness? ›
Ready to get rid of your student loans once and for all? Get our guide. To qualify for this forgiveness, the person who took out the loan—in this case, the parent—can have up to $10,000 of the student loan debt forgiven if they make less than $125,000 (or $250,000 per household).What disqualifies you from FAFSA? ›
For example, if your citizenship status changed because your visa expired or it was revoked, then you would be ineligible. Other reasons for financial aid disqualification include: Not maintaining satisfactory progress at your college or degree program. Not filling out the FAFSA each year you are enrolled in school.
There is no set income limit for eligibility to qualify for financial aid through. You'll need to fill out the FAFSA every year to see what you qualify for at your college. It's important to make sure you fill out the FAFSA as quickly as possible once it opens on October 1st for the following school year.Do you have to use your parents income for financial aid? ›
If you're considered a dependent student for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) purposes, you'll need to provide information about your parent(s) on the application.Can you skip FAFSA questions about your parents assets? ›
If you (and your spouse or your parents, if applicable) meet certain income and tax filing conditions, you may be able to skip the following questions about assets: Amount in cash, savings, and checking accounts. Other net worth of investments. Net worth of businesses and/or investment farms.How to fill out FAFSA with illegal parents? ›
Since your parents' citizenship doesn't affect your ability to complete the FAFSA form, they don't need SSNs. If your parents don't have SSNs, they must enter 000-00-0000 when the FAFSA form asks for their SSNs.Can I use a parent I don't live with on my FAFSA? ›
You will need both parents' information on the FAFSA unless your parents are separated or divorced. If your parents are separated or divorced, you should use the information of the parent you lived with the most last year.How do you qualify for dependency override FAFSA? ›
- Parents refuse to contribute to the student's education;
- Parents are unwilling to provide information on the application or for verification;
- Parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes;
- Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency.
Examples of an “unusual” family circumstances:
There are no absolute definitions for “unusual” family circumstances. However, examples might include abusive family situations, severely dysfunctional families, or families who have broken up because of substance abuse.
You must update anything that changes your dependency status (for instance, you are now pregnant or are now in legal guardianship) except a change in your marital status. If your marital status changes, you must speak to the financial aid office to determine whether you may update the FAFSA form.What age can you get a student loan without a cosigner? ›
Sallie Mae does not require a cosigner if you meet certain criteria to qualify on your own: Student loan borrowers must be 18 years old at the time of application and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident of the country. Student loan borrowers must be enrolled at least part time in a college or university.Can anyone take out a student loan? ›
Anyone who is enrolled in a degree, certificate, or other approved program at an eligible school and is a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen. In addition, in most cases, borrowers must have a high school diploma or equivalency.
- born before Jan. 1, 2000.
- a graduate or professional student.
- a veteran.
- a member of the armed forces.
- an orphan.
- a ward of the court.
- someone with legal dependents other than a spouse.
You can still be considered a dependent student for purposes of applying for federal student aid even if you don't live with your parents, aren't claimed by your parents on their tax forms, or are paying your own bills and educational expenses.Does FAFSA ask if you live with your parents? ›
The application is designed to collect information to determine students' financial need. If you are filling it out, you may be wondering about your dependency status. Dependency isn't about whether you live with your parents; it is based on your response to certain questions on the FAFSA.At what age do I no longer need my parents info for FAFSA? ›
The current criteria for independent student status include whether the student is age 24 or older as of December 31 of the academic year.Is Sallie Mae worth it? ›
Sallie Mae is a four-star lender based on NerdWallet's student loan rating system. Our ratings prioritize low interest rates and flexible repayment options that allow borrowers to repay loans faster and avoid default.Do you need your parents to cosign student loans? ›
Every federal loan option besides PLUS loans, including direct subsidized loans and direct unsubsidized loans, can be applied for and granted without a cosigner. Federal loans tend to come with low interest rates, flexible repayment terms and other borrower protections.What disqualifies you from student loans? ›
You're not making satisfactory academic progress at your school. You've defaulted on an existing federal student loan. You owe a refund on any previous federal grants. You're enrolled in an academic program that makes you ineligible for funding.What is required to get a student loan? ›
To apply for a federal student loan, you must first complete and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. Based on the results of your FAFSA form, your college or career school will send you a financial aid offer, which may include federal student loans.How much money do you get as an independent student? ›
|Year Level||Dependent Annual Loan Limit||Independent Annual Loan Limit|
|Third year and above||$7,500||$12,500|
|Graduate and Professionals||N/A||$20,500|
Students who fall into several categories based on their age, household members, marital status, educational program, and military status automatically qualify as independent students. Those who do not meet these requirements can file an appeal on their FAFSA or with their school.
It's not enough to have parents who refuse to provide financial support for college. Living alone and supporting oneself financially also won't classify a student as independent.