How do I find student loans if I have bad credit?

I have bad credit and have trouble qualifying for a private student loan. Where else can I borrow money to pay for college?

Most traditional students, enrolling in college immediately after graduating from high school, have a thin or non-existent credit history. If they have a credit history, it is usually a bad one. So, how can an undergraduate student qualify for a student loan with bad credit?

One solution is to find a student loan that does not require a credit check or cosigner, such as the Direct Loan and the Perkins Loan. These federal student loans do not consider the borrower’s credit history.

The Parent PLUS Loan and Grad PLUS Loan do involve a modest credit check, which looks for the absence of an adverse credit history. Eligibility for the PLUS Loan does not, however, depend on the borrower’s credit scores or debt-to-income ratios.

State student loans usually require borrowers to have good credit scores, but some do not. Also, students with bad credit can look for personal loans from a small local bank or credit union, which may be more flexible for borrowers with a weak credit history.

Another option is to borrow with a creditworthy cosigner. Education lenders base credit decisions on the higher of the two credit scores. So, not only can this increase the odds that the loan will be approved, but it can also yield a lower interest rate. More than 90% of new private student loans to undergraduate students and more than 75% of new private student loans to graduate and professional students require a creditworthy cosigner.

Before applying for a private student loan, prospective borrowers should get free copies of their credit reports from, review them for accuracy and dispute any errors. This may yield a higher credit score, helping the borrowers qualify for a private student loan. Otherwise, there are no quick fixes to bad credit. To improve the borrower’s credit score requires managing credit responsibly by paying all bills on-time for an extended period of time.

The final option is to ask someone with very good credit to borrow on the student’s behalf. For example, the student’s parents could obtain a Parent PLUS Loan or a home equity loan to help the student pay for school.

Beware of organizations advertising "bad credit student loans" since legitimate lenders do not seek borrowers who are at higher risk of default. Such organizations may charge you a fee to obtain federal education loans (something you can do on your own) or to provide loans that never materialize.