International student loans are a great financing option for African students seeking to study in the U.S. After exhausting other financing options such as scholarships and family funds, international student loans can help you fill funding gaps.
But accessing loans as an international student might not be as easy as for domestic students. Majority of the few lenders offering loans to international students require them to have a U.S citizen or permanent resident as a cosigner.
What Is a Cosigner?
A cosigner is a creditworthy individual who signs an agreement to bear the responsibility of the loan with you. A cosigner is jointly held responsible to repay the loan until it’s fully repaid or they’re released by the lender.
If you don’t make loan payments on time, the lender may sue you and your cosigner. The lender could also have loan payments taken directly from your paychecks or bank accounts. In addition, late payments or defaulting on your loan will negatively affect both yours and the cosigner’s credit score.
Lenders typically require a cosigner when the primary borrower doesn’t have the required credit history or doesn’t qualify for the loan on their own. That is generally the case with African students studying abroad.
- A cosigner is legally held responsible to fulfill the debt for a student loan
- If the primary borrower makes loan payments on time, the cosigner is not obligated to pay anything.
- If the primary borrower is unable to repay the loan, the cosigner is obligated to pay
- Some lenders provide the option to release a cosigner from a loan after a specified duration
What are the Benefits of a Cosigner?
Having a cosigner, even when it isn’t required, comes with significant benefits. These benefits include:
- Higher chances of loan approval
- Access to higher loan amounts
- Access to lower loan rates
To lenders, cosigned loans have lower risk compared to those without a cosigner, hence the benefits outlined above.
Who Can I Ask to Cosign My International Student Loan?
Ideally, students have their parents as cosigners. That option, however, isn’t viable for most African students. Their parents may not qualify as cosigners.
Without access to parental help in cosigning student loans, you’ll have to explore other options. Let’s talk about these options to help you find a cosigner for your international student loans:
Family and Friends Abroad
Do you have family members, relatives, or friends living in the U.S? If they’re residents or have acquired citizenship, they might be willing to cosign your international student loan.
Reach out to them and ask. However, you have to ensure that the person you’re asking has good credit and proof of income. Otherwise, they might be disqualified as cosigners.
Your Broader Network
If you don’t have family or friends in the U.S to cosign your loan, don’t give up. Tap into your larger network including mentors, bosses, church leaders, and professors or school counselors.
These people might either be suitable to cosign your loan or provide leads to someone who is. Lenders don’t require cosigners to be close family or relatives. Anyone with good credit and reliable income should be an acceptable cosigner.
University Alumni Associations
Your university may be able to help you find a suitable cosigner for your international student loan. Check with the international students’ office if there are any such programs in your school.
In many cases, such programs are supported by the university alumni association. They rely on having alumni who are currently established in the U.S to cosign loans for promising international students.
Beware of Online Cosigners
There are websites and apps that match students with cosigners at a cost. Usually, you are asked to submit an application detailing your required loan amount. After paying a specified fee, you’re connected to a professional cosigner.
There’s no guarantee that you’ll be matched with a suitable cosigner after paying the fee. If you’re connected to a cosigner, they might ask for a share of your loan amount. These irregularities make cosigner-matching services quite predatory.
If you’re considering finding a cosigner online, beware of the risks. Do your due diligence—don’t take advertising promises at face value.
What are the Common Cosigner Requirements?
When looking for a cosigner, bear in mind that not just anyone will qualify. Here are some general qualities to look for in a prospective cosigner:
- Be a US citizen or permanent resident: they need to have credit history in the U.S, which means they will have to be either U.S citizens or permanent residents.
- Have a stable source of income: to prove their creditworthiness to the lender, they need to have a stable source of income (such as a job or business). Minimum annual income may be specified.
- Have a good credit score and credit history: to establish creditworthiness, the lender will check the prospective cosigner’s credit score and credit history. A solid credit score shows that the cosigner has a good track record with paying their debts.
In addition to the requirements above, your cosigner must have a social security number and a current address and phone number. They must be willing to share the personal and employment information required by the lender.
If you’re planning to apply for an international student loan, start thinking about whom to ask to be your cosigner. Identifying and approaching potential cosigners in advance will expedite the international student loan application process.
Important Points to Discuss With Your Cosigner
Before they sign the dotted line on your loan documents, it’s important for a cosigner to fully understand the responsibility.
Here are some important things you must discuss with a prospective cosigner:
- The loan amount: Since the cosigner will also be responsible for the loan, they must be fully aware of the amount. Explain why you need the money and exactly what it will cover—such as tuition fees, books, or living expenses.
- Repayment plan: Using data (such as expected postgraduate income), explain to the cosigner how you will be able to make timely loan payments as required.
- Your financial situation: Be fully open about your financial situation with the prospective cosigner. If you have other loans (or plan to take out additional debt), let them know.
- Worst case scenario: Discuss how to navigate the worst case loan repayment scenario. The cosigner must be fully aware that they’ll be held accountable for loan payments if you don’t pay.
- Cosigner release: Does the lender provide cosigner release? After how many payments? Discuss your plan to obtain cosigner release to free them from responsibility for your loan.
Remember, cosigning for an international student loan is a huge responsibility. This isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. The people you ask to cosign your international student loan have a right to turn you down if they’re not ready to take on the responsibility.
What If I’m Unable to Find a Cosigner for My International Student Loan?
If you’re unable to find an eligible cosigner for your international student loan, don’t worry. There are a few lenders that provide African international student loans without cosigner requirements. These lenders include:
To qualify for international student loans without a cosigner, lenders require you to meet some basic criteria. The basic requirements include:
- Attend an approved school
- Be a citizen of an eligible country
- Be enrolled at least half-time in an approved program
- Qualify for a U.S student visa
- Live in the U.S while attending school
Below, let’s briefly explore what you need to know about the three main lenders that provide cosigner-free loans for international African students.
1- 8B Education Investments
8B Education Investments is the only lender that exclusively provides loans to African students studying abroad. 8B’s loan program is open to African students with admission offers or those who are currently enrolled in eligible U.S universities.
Features of the 8B Loan Program include:
- Minimum loan amount: $5000
- Maximum loan amount: $25,000 per academic year, can cover up to total cost of education abroad
- Cosigner: No cosigner required. However, having a cosigner will giving access to wider loan options
- Discounts: Significant interest rate reductions for using auto-pay, 0.50% interest rate reduction upon graduation
- Eligibility: With few exceptions, students from nearly all African (and Caribbean) countries are eligible
- Supportive community: Access to exclusive benefits in the 8B Community, including curated learning pathways, job placement, and career mentorship
- Forbearance: 8B works on a case-by-case basis to determine forbearance eligibility
The application process, which is fully online, is quick and easy. Go to the 8B Loan Marketplace and apply.
2- MPOWER Financing
An 8B partner, MPOWER Financing is another leading lender providing loans to African international students without cosigners. MPOWER considers a variety of data points to determine your eligibility for a loan—such as your expected future income.
To qualify for a loan from MPOWER, you must:
- Be enrolled or admitted at one of the 350 approved schools in the U.S. or Canada
- Be enrolled in a one or two-year program or within two years of graduation.
- Not be a citizen of a restricted country or subject to individual sanctions
Here’s a brief outline of MPOWER loans for international students:
- Loan Amounts: $2,000–$100,000
- Repayment Terms: 10 years
- Application or origination fees: 5%
- Late fees: 4% of the unpaid amount or $5, whichever is less
- Cosigner: Not required
- Discounts: You can reduce your interest rate by 1.5% if you take advantage of all 3 discounts available
- Forbearance: If experiencing financial hardship, borrowers can call customer service to discuss options
- Loan discharge: MPOWER will discharge (waive) loan balance if a borrower becomes permanently and totally disabled.
Go to 8B’s Loan Marketplace to apply for a loan from MPOWER Financing. The application process takes about 30 minutes.
3- Prodigy Finance
Prodigy Finance also provides loans to African international students without cosigners. Only international graduate students are eligible for Prodigy student loans. Supported programs include business, science, technology, engineering, math, public policy, economics, law, and medical programs.
Citizens from these African countries are not eligible for student loans from Prodigy Finance: Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chad, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Namibia, Niger, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Swaziland, eSwatini, Tanzania, and Togo.
Here’s an overview of what you need to know about international student loans from Prodigy Finance:
- Loan Amounts: $15,000, offers can be greater depending on circumstances
- Repayment Terms: 7 to 20 years
- Origination fees: 0 to 5% of the total loan amount, depending on school and program
- Late payment fees: $25
- Cosigner: not required
- Discounts: None
- Forbearance: Borrowers can apply for forbearance, which is offered in 3-month increments
Frequently Asked Questions
Do international students need a cosigner?
In most cases, lenders require international students to have a U720, U.S citizen or permanent resident to qualify for education loans. A few lenders, such as 8B Education Investments, don’t require African international students to have cosigners.
What credit score is needed for a cosigner?
Your international student loan is more likely to be approved if your cosigner as a credit score of 720 or higher. If they have a credit score between 680 and 720, they may be able to help you qualify for a loan—albeit at higher rates.
What happens if you have no one to cosign?
If you have no one to cosign your international student loan, explore options that don’t require a cosigner—such as 8B’s Loan Program.