Paying for College

My Parents Won't Pay for College. Can I Take Out My Own Loans?

Question: Hi my question is even with an extremely high family income could I still take out student loans. My father and step-mother have a combined income of <500k a year however due to strained relationships they will not help pay for college. My mother also makes 100k but can’t help due to lots of debt accumulated when she was younger. I’m assuming fincial aid is completely out of the question so can I still get students loans government or privately?

If your mother applies for a parent “PLUS Loan” (see https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/loans/plus ) and is denied due to poor credit, she may be able to get the loan if another adult with good credit (e.g., a grandparent) agrees to co-sign the loan. However, if your mother is denied a PLUS loan, you will still probably be allowed to take out a loan of up to about $4000 to $5000 per year (the amount goes up as you get older).  While this amount will only make a dent in the tuition and room & board at most colleges, you would be unwise to graduate with a lot of debt, and thus your best option may be to apply to the lower-cost public colleges or spend two years in a community college before transferring to a four-year school.

Other options include …


  1. Take out a private loan BUT you will need an adult co-signer with good credit who agrees to cover your loan if you default. If your mother has significant debt, she cannot co-sign, and it sounds like your father would be unwilling. Thus you’d have to find another adult (grandparent? aunt? uncle?) to do this enormous favor.

  1. If you are a strong student, you can apply to colleges where you might get a large merit scholarship. College Confidential has a lot of free information about where you can find suggestions. For instance, see: http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/financial-aid-scholarships/1461983-competitive-full-tuition-full-ride-scholarships.html#latest

  1. Consider applying to colleges that use only the FAFSA form for financial aid and not the CSS Profile. FAFSA-only colleges will consider just your custodial parent’s income and assets and not the income and assets of both parents. So if your mother is your custodial parent and she earns about $100K per year, you will probably still qualify for some need-based aid. If your parents share custody but you can claim that you live with your mother at least 51% of the time, then you can name her on your FAFSA and not your father. Here is a list of the colleges that require the CSS Profile (which will consider income from both parents). https://profileonline.collegeboard.org/prf/PXRemotePartInstitutionServlet/PXRemotePartInstitutionServlet.srv Look for colleges that are NOT on it. The University of Alabama, for instance, is not a FAFSA school, offers excellent merit aid, has a strong honors program (as well as a strong football team!) and is actively recruiting students from out of state. (As of right now, slightly more than half of all ’Bama students are from outside of Alabama).

It’s tough on you to be caught in the middle of family dynamics that will affect your college choices and perhaps subject you to long-term debt. But the silver lining is that, if you do finance your own college career, you will probably appreciate it more than many other students do, and you will learn life lessons along the way that might be more valuable than the formal education!

Good luck!