A college student recently asked me if his parents are responsible for his educational loans.
Parents are NOT responsible for any Federal Student Loans (Stafford and/or Perkins). However, they are responsible for the Federal PLUS loans and any other alternative loans that require a co-signer. In general, the student is solely responsible for repaying their federal educational loans. You do not need to get your parents to co-sign your federal student loans, even if you are under age 18, as the "defense of infancy" does not apply to federal student loans (the defense of infancy presumes that a minor is not able to enter into contracts, and considers any such contract to be void).
There is an explicit exemption to this principle in the Higher Education Act with regard to federal student loans. However, lenders normally will require a cosigner on any type of private student loan. If your parents (or grandparents) want to help pay off your federal loan(s), you can have your billing statements sent to their address. Likewise, if your lender or loan servicer provides an electronic payment service, where the monthly payments are automatically deducted from a bank account, your parents can agree to have the payments deducted from their account. But your parents are under no obligation to repay your loans. If they forget to pay the bill on time or decide to cancel the electronic payment agreement, you will be held responsible for the payments, not them.
• Bob McDonnell is executive director of Arizona College Planners, L.L.C., a member of the College Planning Network, the National Association of College Funding Advisors and the National Association of College Acceptance Counselors. For questions, email Info@ArizonaCollegePlanners.com.