When Parents Cosign Student Loans

Dear Mary,

We made a big mistake cosigning for our children’s college funding. Now, years later, we owe so much on their loans. And the worst part—they didn’t even graduate! We are trying to survive on one income. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Anna, email 

Dear Anna,

The sad truth is that you are not alone. Much of the $3 trillion in outstanding student loan debt is being shouldered by parents, and it could be affecting their retirement. I assume that your children have defaulted on these loans and now the lender is coming after you as cosigner for payment. I hate to sound harsh, and truly wish I had better news, but only the death of the student for whom you cosigned will make this go away. Not even filing for bankruptcy will relieve you of these debts. 

My best advice is that you don’t give yourself the option to live on one income. Whichever of you is not working needs to get a job—any job—and devote that entire paycheck to paying down these loans until they are paid in full. Putting off payment will do nothing but make matters worse.

Dear Mary,

You really spoke to me the other day when you said, “When are you going to stop what you are doing and take action to get out of debt?” It is going to be a long haul, but worth it, I’m sure. I have had a lifestyle of spend, spend, spend, and now I will have to pay, pay and pay until everyone is paid off. I hope I will never do this again. It is a terrible way to live. Miriam, email 

Dear Miriam,

As painful as it might have been, thank goodness you had that wakeup call. The best time to get started turning your financial life around is today. One step at a time, one day at a time, you’ll make it. And quite possibly much sooner than you could imagine.

I love days like today when I get to open the Everyday Cheapskate mailbag and read all the letters and messages from our growing Debt-Proof Living family, and attempt to answer your questions about everything from a super easy way to make great compost (I’m still working on that one) to just about anything you can imagine to do things better, faster and cheaper.

Dear Mary,

Do you have a tip on how to clean my white Pfaltzgraff dishes? Barb, email 

Dear Barb,

Pfaltzgraff has been making dinnerware for many years and has used earthenware, stoneware, porcelain and bone china at some point in its history. Most Pfaltzgraff patterns currently in production are made primarily of stoneware and earthenware, with only a few patterns being offered in ironstone and porcelain. The good news is that all Pfaltzgraff dinnerware is microwave and dishwasher safe.

The appearance of gray lines or “scratches” on Pfaltzgraff dinnerware is not a defect—in fact, it is quite common. These marks appear when metal utensils come in contact with the hard glazes used by the manufacturer. You can remove these marks easily using a variety of cleansers. Pfaltzgraff makes it own Pfaltzgraff Stoneware & Porcelain Cleaner, but it is a little pricey.

Two other products that are safe to use on Pfaltzgraff are Zud and my personal favorite, Bar Keepers Friend. Simply dip a wet cloth into a small amount of Bar Keepers Friend and apply it to the stain or mark. Let it sit for a couple of minutes, then rub gently to remove the mark. Work slowly, and do not use a lot of pressure. Wash the dish in warm water using a mild dishwashing soap, and dry with a soft, clean cloth.

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13 replies
  1. Lisa Wiley says:

    Any tips on reseasoning Calphalon pans. I have two and both of them stick like mad. I am not certain as to what I did to create the problem.

  2. Stephanie Swalwell says:

    Mary, You might advise your readers that the terms of student loans depend on the type of loan it is – PLUS loans are like student loans, in that the death or permanent total disability of the student will suffice, and bankruptcy won’t clear.

    Some people, even back when I was in school, had their parents cosign bank loans for their education – those are not like the federally backed student loans, they are like private loans. Can be included in bankruptcy. Do not discharge on the death or disability of the covered student, as best I understand.

    I bring this up because I never had to have my parents cosign on the stafford loans (federally backed) that I took out. To my knowledge, no one did… so if parents are cosigning student loans, it seems to me, they have to either be PLUS (which isn’t a parent cosigner, but a parent borrower), or private.

  3. Kelly says:

    I actually got on here to look for information on LIFE LOCK because I lost an important paper with most of my personal information on (except my bra size and weight. LOL). Anyway, I started reading the article about parents co-signing their students’ loans. My husband and I have co-signed a few loans for our daughters. We were considering taking out life insurance policies on them because we figured that if one of them passed away, we would be left holding the bag (empty bag, of course). Is that true? Reading what you said above tells me that if the student passes away, the debt is cleared. Is that so? If it is, then we won’t bother taking out the insurance policies.

  4. Inventor64 says:

    I, on purpose never had any children, no collage debt problem. 8 years ago , we closed all my credit cards, cashed my 401-K and used it to pay off our mortgage. We are now debt “FREE”!!! Our credit rating took a dive for a while but rebound to 798.
    We only have a Debt card with our Credit Union that pays us the interest rate and fees to our account. All charges are 0% interest. We have a line of credit that we can use for emergency’s Take that banks.

  5. rvingrandma says:

    How about a heart to heart discussion with the children/adults who are responsible for this debt? Could they not see their way to assuming some of the responsibility?

  6. ShirlSumm says:

    I am truly sorry for Anna and her plight. May I just say that it is not the parents responsibility to foot the bill for a child’s education. I’m not sure what beauracrat, what high school counselor, who decided that we should pay this much for a benefit that we would never recoup. The education belongs to your children, to fail or prosper. Helping with little things is wonderful. These school loans are horrible, and very hard to pay off. You can’t even pay “extra” on the loan because they by law can apply the extra to finance charges rather than principle. Please just don’t do it.

    • Kelly says:

      Everything you said is true. We have explained to our daughters that the educational debt belongs to them. Of course, we’ve paid a portion–a portion that we can afford. The problem is that the student cannot get the loans without a co-signer, so we are stuck as co-signers. It is so scary. We have explained to them that they will work at McDonalds if they have to in order to pay back these loans because we can’t and won’t. We also told them to notify us immediately if they miss or are about to miss a payment because we would have to take over to avoid hurting our credit. What’s a parent to do besides not allowing their child to go to college until they work to pay for their own education?

      • Stephanie Swalwell says:

        I never had to have my parents cosign a student loan for me – are these Stafford loans through the school or are they ‘private loans’? My parents never paid a PENNY…. or cosigned for a penny. I paid 10K over 4 years working, borrowed 10k, and received 20 k in scholarships.

    • Guest says:

      I use the powdered because that’s what I keep on hand. I have used liquid, which works well, but still requires a bit of a scrub.


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