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My Son is Stuck in Sallie Mae Student Loans and I’m the Co-Signer But We Can’t Get Out

Written by Steve Rhode


Dear Steve,

My son graduated with over $100,000 in student loan debt from SallieMae, with a monthly payment of about $1145. I am the co-signer.

His interest rates are variable and have gone up three times in six months or so. He has spoken with them to see if he could consolidate or get an income based repayment plan.

They told him right out they couldn’t help him. He graduated over two years ago and has been fully employed since, but is not making enough to make the full payments. I have been helping. He has been building his credit, but still to no avail, no financial institute is willing to help. I can’t get a loan because with me being a co-signer and some cc debt, they won’t finance me. Where does he turn?



Dear Kim,

It’s not clear if this is a federal or private loan. But I’m suspecting it’s a private loan. If that is true then he simply is not eligible for an income driven repayment plan because they don’t exist for private student loans.

If it is a federal student loan then he would absolutely be eligible to consolidate his loans into a new Direct Loan and elect an income driven repayment plan. Just be aware, they are not magic solutions. See Why Income Based Student Loan Payments Can Be a Terrible Trap.

The bigger issue here is that as a co-signer you are 100% responsible for the student loan debt. Even if you negotiated a co-signer release or paid for a release by offering a substantial payment on the debt (think 40%) then it still leaves your son on the hook.

The issue here goes way back before the debt was created. Ultimately the problem is a financing cost for education that is not sustainable by the degree obtained and wages earned.

I have no idea what the employment prospects are for your son but debt is fundamentally the pledge of future labor to repay a past obligation.

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Sallie Mae and other lenders were criticized by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau who found in 2015 that 90 percent of people who applied for a co-signer release were rejected.

So your options are limited. If you were able to successfully extract yourself from his loan as a co-signer it would improve your credit but still leave him buried in debt. So that doesn’t really help him.

If he defaulted on the debt in hopes of negotiating more favorable terms, as long as you are a co-signer you can be chased and/or sued for payment. So that’s not a wonderful option.

Ultimately this is probably a two stage problem where you pay a substantial amount to get yourself off the loan and then he later defaults in hopes of settling or negotiating better terms. That approach will of course hurt his credit. See Top 10 Reasons You Should Stop Paying Your Unaffordable Private Student Loan.

But outside of that or getting a new private loan to payoff the old student loan, you are in a tough spot.

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About the author

Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.


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