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Updated on Friday, June 15, 2018
If you’ve taken out a federal parent PLUS loan to help a child pay for college, you may have already started making loan payments while your child is in school. Or, perhaps you’ve deferred the payment until after graduation.
When you borrow a parent PLUS loan, the money gets sent to your child’s school. However, as the borrower, you are legally responsible for repaying the loan.
Sometimes, a parent and child may have an arrangement where the child starts making payments or reimbursing a parent once he or she can afford it. However, these are informal arrangements and don’t reflect the legal liability that you have as the borrower. If you want the child to take on full responsibility for the loan, you’ll have to figure out a way to transfer the debt to the child’s name.
Can a parent PLUS loan be transferred to the student?
Yes, transferring a parent PLUS loan to a child is possible. However, the U.S. Department of Education, which issues parent PLUS loans and lends money to students for educational costs, doesn’t offer a way to transfer a parent PLUS loan.
Even if your child has his or her own student loans and is making monthly payments to the same loan servicer that you’re working with, there’s no way to transfer the parent PLUS loan to the child within the federal student loan system.
To transfer the debt, the child will need to qualify for and take out a loan from a private lender and then use the money to pay off the parent PLUS loan. The new loan doesn’t have to be a student loan. Children could take out a personal loan or use a cash-out refinance if they own a home, and then give the money to a parent to pay off the parent PLUS loan.
But there are student loan refinancing companies that let borrowers refinance a parent PLUS loan into the child’s name. The loan may remain a qualified educational loan, which means eligible borrowers may be able to deduct up to $2,500 in interest payment from their taxes each year. The refinancing company will also generally pay off the other student loans directly, rather than sending the borrower cash.
Steps for children who want to take over parent PLUS loans
If you’re a student or former student who wants to transfer a parent PLUS loan to your name, refinancing the loan with a private student loan refinancing company could your best option.
You can choose which loans you want to refinance, including some of your own student loans. Refinancing could even save you money if you can qualify for a lower interest rate, and combining multiple loans into one new loan can make managing your loans easier.
However, carefully consider your options before refinancing your federal student loans. After refinancing, your new private student loan won’t be eligible for federal repayment, assistance and forgiveness programs.
Whether or not you want to refinance your own loans, if you’re looking to transfer a parent PLUS loan, consider taking these four steps:
1. Review your budget
Refinancing your student loans could lead to lower monthly payments if you’re only refinancing your own loans. However, if you’re taking on additional debt by adding in a parent PLUS loan, your monthly payments may increase. You can use a student loan refinance calculator to estimate the change in your monthly payment amount.
Consider how your new monthly payments will impact your budget, and whether you’ll still be able to cover all your living expenses. If you don’t think you can afford all the payments, you may not want to transfer the parent PLUS loan.
2. Find lenders that offer parent PLUS loan transfers
Many lenders offer student loan refinancing, but some lenders only let your refinance your own student loans. If you want to transfer a parent PLUS loan, you’ll need to find lenders that let you include a parent PLUS loan into the child’s new loan. For example, CommonBond, SoFi and Laurel Road — some of the top private student loan refinancing companies — all offer parent PLUS refinancing that transfers the debt to the student.
3. See if you’re eligible
Once you’ve identified a few lenders that let you transfer parent PLUS loans, review their basic eligibility criteria to see if you’ll qualify for refinancing.
Your citizenship status, state of residence, whether you received a bachelor’s degree and how much debt you’re refinancing could impact your eligibility. Your monthly income could also be a factor, as lenders want to be certain you can afford your loan payments.
Additionally, your credit history and score can determine whether a lender will approve your loan application and the terms it offers. Some lenders offer a soft credit preapproval, which lets you see if you qualify for refinancing and your estimated loan terms without affecting your credit score. With others, you won’t know what terms you’ll get until you apply.
You could check your credit score for free online to help estimate your chances of getting approved. Although lenders may use different credit scoring models to evaluate applicants, and a credit score isn’t the only important factor, you may need a minimum score of around 660-680 to qualify for refinancing from some of the top lenders.
You also may want to review your credit reports for negative marks. For example, regardless of your score, some lenders may not approve your application if you have recent collections accounts or a bankruptcy on your credit reports. You may need to wait until the negative items fall off your reports (which can take seven to 10 years), and can focus on building a good credit history with on-time payments.
4. Compare your loan offers and complete a loan agreement
Once you have a list of lenders that you think may be a good fit, you could start submitting applications.
When you submit a complete application for student loan refinancing, the resulting hard inquiry on your credit report could have a small, negative impact your credit score. And multiple inquiries can sometimes increase the damage. However, multiple hard inquiries from student loan applications that occur within a 14-day period (depending on the type of credit score) only count as one inquiry for scoring purposes. Therefore, shopping lenders and comparing offers during a short period could help you secure the lowest rate possible without causing excessive damage to your credit.
Once you figure out which offer is best, and if you decide to move forward, you’ll need to complete the application process. You may need to upload verification documents, such as recent pay stubs, tax returns or a job offer to verify your income. You’ll also have to sign the loan agreement, which you may be able to do electronically.
The private lender will then generally send payments to your loan servicer as well as your parent’s loan servicer to pay off those student loans. You should both continue making payments as usual until you’ve confirmed the original loans were paid off.
Pros of transferring your parent PLUS loans
Transferring your parent PLUS loan to a child may offer several benefits for both parties.
The debt will no longer impact the parent’s eligibility for financing. Decreasing the debt that’s in the parent’s name will lead to a lower debt-to-income ratio, which can help the parent qualify for loans and lines of credit at lower rates.
The child may be making the loan payments anyway. If you have an informal agreement that the child makes the loan payments or reimburses the parent, transferring the parent PLUS loan will let the legal responsibility match your arrangement.
The child can build credit. After transferring the loan, the child can build his or her credit by making on-time loan payments. However, a late payment could now hurt the child’s credit.
The loan’s interest rate could drop. Depending on the loan offers that the child receives, the refinanced loan could have a lower interest rate. A lower rate could lead to lower monthly payments and long-term savings.
Cons of transferring parent PLUS loans
There are also potential drawbacks to transferring your parent PLUS loans. Consider these carefully, because you can’t undo the transfer once it’s complete.
The borrower loses access to federal programs. Private student loans aren’t eligible for federal repayment plans, forgiveness programs or forbearance and discharge options. Therefore, if you’re having trouble making payments, you may have fewer options when dealing with your private lender.
The child might not qualify for a good rate. If the child doesn’t qualify for an equal or lower interest rate, the long-term cost of repaying the loan could increase. When there isn’t a pressing reason to transfer the loan, you may want to wait to refinance while the child builds their credit.
Additional parent PLUS loan repayment options
If your child doesn’t qualify to refinance the parent PLUS loan in his or her name, or you decide against the transfer for another reason, there still may be other options for your loan.
Consider a different federal repayment plan
If you’re struggling to afford monthly parent PLUS loan payments, you may want to consider switching your repayment plan. The graduated plan starts with a lower rate, which usually increases every two years. There’s also an extended plan, which increases your term to 25 years, versus 10 with the standard or graduated plans, and leads to a lower monthly payment (but more interest paid over time).
Parent PLUS loans borrowers are also eligible for the income-contingent repayment (ICR) plan, if you first consolidated your parent PLUS loan (or loans) into a federal direct consolidation loan. The ICR plan will adjust your monthly payments based on your discretionary income, and any remaining balance will be forgiven after you make payments for 25 years. You may, however, have to pay income taxes on the forgiven amount.
Look into federal forgiveness and discharge options
Parent PLUS loans are eligible for some of the same federal cancellation and discharge programs as federal student loans lent directly to students. For example, the debt may be discharged if your child’s school closed and he or she wasn’t able to complete the program.
You could also get part of the loan forgiven through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness. You’ll need to consolidate your loan and switch to the ICR plan specifically. To qualify, you (not your child) must work for an eligible employer, such as a government or nonprofit tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, and make 120 qualified monthly payments.
Additional student loan forgiveness or repayment programs
There are a variety of federally funded and private student loan repayment assistance (LRAP) programs that could also help you with your loan. Many of these programs are targeted at people in specific professions, such as those who work in health care, law or the military. And there may be additional requirements to work in high-need areas. Depending on the program, you may receive an additional signing bonus or annual stipend that will be sent to your loan servicer to repay your student loan.
Refinance the loan in your name
Just as your child may be able to refinance his or her student loans, you may be able to refinance your parent PLUS loan with a private lender. You may be able to qualify for a lower interest rate or change your loan term, which could lower your monthly payment and may save you money over the lifetime of your loan.