How Do You Qualify for a Parent PLUS Loan?

You can't have 'adverse credit history' and must be a parent to be eligible for a parent PLUS loan.
Anna Helhoski
By Anna Helhoski 
Updated
Edited by Des Toups
Parent PLUS Loan Eligibility

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You can qualify for a parent PLUS loan if you meet the following eligibility requirements:

Here’s more information about parent PLUS loan eligibility and what to do if you don't qualify.

What credit score is needed for a parent PLUS loan?

No minimum credit score is needed to get a parent PLUS loan. Federal loans aren't like private parent student loans, which use your credit score to determine whether you qualify and what interest rate you'll receive.

But parent PLUS loans do have a credit check, and you won't qualify if you have adverse credit history. That can include negative line items on your credit report like payments that are 90 days late, tax liens and more.

Check your credit for adverse information before applying for a parent PLUS loan. You are entitled to one free report a year from each credit reporting bureau — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — or you can get a free credit report through NerdWallet.

In addition to passing a credit check, you must meet other requirements to apply for a parent PLUS loan.

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Who can apply for a parent PLUS loan?

  • You must be a parent. Only parents — including adoptive and, in some cases, stepparents — can qualify for a parent PLUS loan. You can't get a parent PLUS loan if you're a grandparent or guardian, even if you're legally responsible for a child.

  • Your child must be an undergraduate. Your child is only eligible if they're a dependent undergraduate student who is enrolled at least half-time at an eligible Title IV college or career school. There aren't parent PLUS loans for graduate students.

  • You both must be eligible for federal student aid. You and your child will need to meet general eligibility requirements for federal loans, including being a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen and having a valid Social Security number.

What to do if you don't qualify for parent PLUS loans

If you're denied a parent PLUS loan because of the credit requirements, you could become eligible if you get an endorser — which works similarly to having a co-signer for private student loans — or if you can prove extenuating circumstances related to your adverse credit history.

If you qualify for a parent PLUS loan through either of these methods, you're also required to complete credit counseling on the federal student loan website.

You can also consider borrowing or co-signing a private student loan if you can’t meet the non-credit parent PLUS loan requirements — for example, if you're a grandparent. Borrowing privately may not be a solution if your credit is a problem; if you can qualify with a private lender, your interest rate might be higher than it would be for a parent PLUS loan.

How to apply for a PLUS loan

To apply for a parent PLUS loan, you or your child must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. You can then fill out the Direct PLUS loan application.

Before you apply, make sure you have:

  • Your parent FSA ID.

  • Requested loan amount.

  • School name.

  • Student information.

  • Personal information.

  • Employer information.

The application takes about 20 minutes to complete.

Understand Parent PLUS loan terms before you borrow

Although the parent PLUS loan is a federal loan, the terms are a lot less generous than federal student loans. Higher interest rates, no grace period and fewer repayment options can make the parent PLUS loan harder to repay.

You wouldn't want an overwhelming debt burden when you'd rather be focused on retirement.

Make sure that you understand the loan terms and what repayment would look like, especially given other financial priorities. You can even use a parent PLUS loan calculator to get an estimated monthly payment.

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