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  • Writer's pictureMichael DiBartolomeo

How Do Student Loans Affect Credit Score?

Updated: Feb 24, 2022

Do student loans affect creditworthiness? Do late payments have adverse effects on scores? Taking out a student loan is a big decision and it can have a significant impact on a person's future moving forward. There can be various positive and negative aspects to consider when taking out a student loan; however, what about the impact it has on one's credit score? As an adult, it is essential that one pays attention to their credit score as this can come in handy regarding specific decisions and investments.

A person may be wondering how student loans impact their credit score if they borrowed money to pay for their college education. After all, credit is an integral part of consumer life. It has an effect on the chances of being accepted for anything from a credit card to a new car loan to a first-time home mortgage. Someone's credit score is used by lenders to decide whether or not they are going to be approved for a loan and on what terms. Let us take a look at this topic in further detail.

What Is a Student Loan?

A student loan is money lent to pay for college from the government or a private lender. The debt must be repaid in the future, along with interest that accrues over time. Tuition, room and board, books, and other fees are typically paid by the funds. However, some student loan borrowers use their loan money for other purposes not intended by the student loan.

One must clarify that student loans are not the same as scholarships or grants. A student loan must always be repaid unless an individual is one of the fortunate few who has a portion of their loan forgiven, which is exceedingly rare. Scholarships and grants, on the other hand, do not require repayment. Job-study schemes, in which students are paying to work on campus, are not the same as student loans.

Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is how people receive federal student loans (FAFSA). Students and their parents fill out a questionnaire with their financial details, which is then submitted to the student's top colleges. Every school's financial aid office crunches the numbers to determine how much if any, aid the student is eligible for and then sends them an "award letter" detailing their financial aid package.

Notice that this financial support could come in the form of federal student loans, scholarships, or grants. As a result, it is always recommended to fill out the FAFSA.

Students apply directly to the lender for private student loans. Regardless of whether the loan is federal or private, the student must sign a promissory note. This is a legal contract in which the student agrees to repay the loan plus interest as well as all of the loan's terms and conditions.

What Is a Credit Score?

A credit score is a number that ranges from 300 to 850 and reflects a person's creditworthiness. A borrower's credit score increases the way he or she appears to potential lenders. The figure is determined using information from one's credit history, such as the number of accounts they have available, the total amount of debt they owe, and their repayment history, among other items. Credit ratings are used by lenders to assess the likelihood of a borrower repaying a loan on time.

An individual's credit score has a huge effect on their financial condition. It has a big effect on whether or not a lender can give a person credit. People with credit scores of less than 640, for example, are classified as subprime borrowers. In order to compensate themselves for taking on more risk, lending institutions often charge higher interest rates on subprime mortgages than on traditional mortgages. For borrowers with a poor credit score, they might also need a shorter repayment period or a co-signer.

Student loans and credit scores

How Much Do Student Loans Affect Your Credit Score?

Student loans affect a person's credit in the same way as other loans do: pay on time, and the credit improves; pay late, and the credit suffers. Student loans, on the other hand, might allow an individual more time to pay before being reported late.

A student loan is usually a revolving loan, meaning the individual pays a fixed amount for a set period. This is reported to credit bureaus, and one starts to build a track record.

The person taking out the student loan has the right to inspect the details held by credit bureaus. During the pandemic, one can review all three major bureaus' reports for free every week, and one can check a free TransUnion credit report as much as desired. All individuals begin to build a strong and good credit management record if they pay on time, every time.

Here is what a person needs to know about how federal student loans can affect credit scores:

Paying Off Student Loans and Building Credit

The most significant factor impacting your FICO score is timely payments. Without it, one is not able to gain momentum. Making on-time student loan payments would help someone create credit.

If an individual has only used one form of credit before, a student loan helps with credit mix, which is good for his or her ranking. However, while this is a minor factor in someone's credit score, it is not worth taking out a loan they cannot afford to get a variety of credit forms.

Parental student loans, such as federal parent PLUS loans and private parent loans, affect the credit of the individual who took out the student loan. For example, if one's parent takes out a federal student loan to help pay for education, it affects the parent's credit. On the other hand, a student loan that one takes out with their parent's co-signing exists on each of the credit reports and may impact both of your credit scores.

Do Student Loans Affect Buying a House?

A person's debt-to-income ratio, credit score, and willingness to save for a down payment are all affected by student loan debt.

In both direct and indirect ways, a student loan debt affects one's ability to purchase a home. Here is how to do it:

  • Student loan payments make saving for a down payment and handling mortgage payments more challenging after one has bought a home.

  • Student loan debt is going to boost someone's debt-to-income ratio, limiting the ability to apply for a mortgage or lowering the interest rate you are going to receive.

  • Missing a student loan payment hurts the score but paying on time regularly can help it improve.

However, just because someone has a student loan does not mean they can never be able to buy a home. As one considers their choices, here is what people should know.

Payments on Student Loans Make It Challenging to Save

Sending hundreds of dollars a month to a lender or servicer could seem like the most direct and stressful way that student loans affect one's ability to buy a home.

However, saving 20% of the home's value for a down payment, which is usually the recommended sum, is not always sufficient. Investigate the state's first-time homebuyer services, which can include funds for a down payment or low-down-payment mortgage options.

Federal entities, such as the Federal Housing Administration and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, sell mortgages with lower down payments or no down payment in the case of VA loans.

Debt-to-Income Ratio Increases as a Result of Student Loans

Lenders weigh how much debt one already has relative to their pretax income when determining whether or not to accept the person for a mortgage. This is known as the debt-to-income ratio or DTI, and it is measured using monthly debt payments.

Debt-to-income ratios come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and not all mortgage lenders measure them the same way. Car loans, student loans, minimum credit card payments, and child support payments all play a part. The higher one's DTI is, the more debt they have or the lower their income.

Consider paying off student loans or credit cards with a higher interest rate first and avoid taking on new debt until purchasing a house. Before applying for a mortgage, one should attempt to remove one student loan payment; paying off the loan with the highest interest rate would save them the most money over time.

A person's debt-to-income ratio is lowered by refinancing student loans to lower monthly payments. However, it appears on their credit report as a line of credit and may lengthen the repayment period and amount of monthly payments. Refinance at least six months to a year before applying for a mortgage.

Payments on Student Loans Impact Credit Scores

A higher credit score increases the likelihood of being accepted for a mortgage and having a low interest rate. Payment history accounts for 35% of someone's FICO ranking, which is one of two big credit scoring models, and mortgage lenders tend to have a track record of on-time loan payments.

Paying student loans on time would improve credit scores. A missed payment or allowing loans to default, on the other hand, would damage it.

A person's credit mix makes up a smaller part of the overall ranking. However, as long as the individual makes on-time payments on a number of credit forms, such as student loans, car loans, and credit cards, they can increase their credit scores.

Can student loans increase your score

Can Paying Student Loans Increase Someone's Credit Score?

Student loans encourage people to demonstrate that they can make on-time debt payments, which is an essential component of credit scores and a sign that someone is a responsible credit consumer. Student loans also improve one's credit report by increasing the average age of one's accounts and diversifying their account mix. People should make positive and regular contributions to private student loans.

Payments made on open loans or credit lines are reported to the three major credit bureaus and become part of an individual's credit report. Credit scores decrease as a person makes a late payment on their credit history. As a result, if one pays their student loans on time, their credit score increases.

Both the credit score models consider payment and credit history to be one of the most significant factors in determining the credit score. Since a person's payment history has such a significant effect on the overall credit score, it is essential to make all student loan payments on time.

The average account age increases as a result of student loans. Someone's length of credit history, also known as average account age, accounts for a portion of an individual's ranking.

Additionally, student loans help people diversify their credit profile.

Credit mix or the variety of credit one has in their account, is the final impact that student loans have on their credit score. The overall score is influenced by the account mix.

If one has a number of credit accounts under their name, such as one or more credit cards, a home loan, a personal loan, auto loans, or private student loans, they are seen as someone who can handle a variety of financial demands. A better credit mix helps one improve their credit score by lowering the perceived risk as a borrower.

What Happens When Someone Pays Off a Student Loan?

When an individual pays off a student loan, their account is closed, and the account balance is zero on the relevant credit reports.

The account is going to stay on the person's credit records for 10 years after they paid off the student loan if they did not miss any payments or the individual missed payments and decided to bring the account current before finalizing the loan. Late fees, on the other hand, are removed from the history of the account seven years after occurring.

If one falls behind on their payments and never pays off their loan, the account is going to be closed seven years following the initial missed payments, which puts the borrower in default. Regardless of the timeframe, the person’s account continues to affect credit ratings if it appears on the credit report.

Fully paying off loans improves one's credit score because it demonstrates that they adhered to the terms of the loan. However, there may be no difference in one's ranking when they initially pay their student loan, or there might be a minor boost when they make the last on-time payment.

If someone's existing ongoing accounts have increased balances or no longer contain ongoing installment accounts, paying off a student loan often results in a decline in the score. This is due to the fact that having a combination of open revolving accounts and installment accounts can boost an individual's credit score while having high balances on all of the open accounts can harm it.

Do not be concerned. It is normally a marginal reduction in the scores if there is one. Scores also appear to rebound within a few months if no new potential adverse details, such as late payments, high credit balances, or hard investigation, are applied to the credit reports.

Holding credit card balances low and making on-time payments regarding additional credit cards or loans helps people increase their scores in the future.

Tips Regarding Student Loans and Credit History

People should take action to develop and preserve their reputation through student loans and keep their credit history going in the right direction. A few tips include:

Take Out Student Loans Only When Absolutely Necessary

The easiest way to keep student loans under control is to keep the debt to a minimum. Although it may be tempting to use loans to cover all college costs, lone needs to limit the funds to use them to cover tuition, school fees, and books and stop using loans to pay for rental expenses or food.

Make On-Time Payments

Regardless of which version of a credit score one is looking at, the payment history has a significant impact. It is simple, paying off debts and credit cards on time helps people to improve their credit score. Failure to pay the amount owing may have a negative impact on the credit score, especially if you are unemployed. It may be beneficial to learn how filing for unemployment affects your credit score as well.

Maintain Regular Contact with Lenders

Contact the lender if there is an issue with late payments. One can postpone payments, work out a payment schedule based on their salary, or combine their debts into a single loan with a single interest rate. Additionally, private lenders often work with investors to ensure that they are able to fulfill their obligations.

The Benefits of Paying Off Student Loans on One's Financial Position

When someone pays off a student loan boosts one's overall financial stability, regardless of the immediate effect on their creditworthiness. One could decide to start by celebrating and spending the money they may have sent to the student loan office on a night of fun. However, one needs to choose carefully how they want to invest their money:

  • Establish an emergency savings fund - If a private student does not have an emergency savings account yet, setting aside at least a thousand dollars, and hopefully enough to take care of certain expenses, is going to provide a helpful safety net. One may use the funds to pay for one-time costs like a damaged vehicle or cover continuing expenses if they lose their job or become injured.

  • Other loans should be paid off first – Carrying a low credit card balance also helps increase a credit report by lowering the credit utilization ratio, which is the credit amount one is using compared to the total credit limits. Furthermore, paying off a loan reduces the net monthly payment rates, potentially increasing the debt-to-income, DTI, ratio. When one applies for new accounts, several lenders take the DTI into account.

  • Set aside money for critical personal and financial objectives - Other priorities, such as purchasing a new vehicle, buying a house, funding an event, or donating to a child's education fund, may necessitate saving.

  • Spend as much as needed - If one has not achieved all of their financial targets, they could feel the need to divide any remaining capital between things they need and want.

  • Investing - Many people make the decision to invest their money in stocks or real estate. Learn how old you have to be to invest in stocks if you are interested in this option.

Refinancing Student Loans

A lender can pay off debt and issue a new private student loan when one refinances their student loans. Student loan refinancing may have a lower interest rate or a different term or the amount of time one has to repay it. It could save someone a lot of money in the long run. It may also allow one to make smaller monthly payments while extending your repayment period. You do, however, need good credit to refinance student loans.

Although refinancing can save someone money, there are some drawbacks to consider. When one refinances their federal loans to a private one, they lose access to all of the federal program's features, such as income-driven repayment, loan forgiveness, forbearance, and deferment. People cannot go back and forth between a private and a federal loan.

Another thing to consider is how old the student debt is. Refinancing student loans may or may not make financial sense, depending on when the person first borrowed the money for college.

When evaluating student loans, regardless of the situation, bear in mind the impact on one's credit report. A financial advisor could be helpful in evaluating student loans and credit scores. Having timely payments is a crucial first step toward establishing and keeping an excellent credit score regarding student loans.

The Final Verdict

It is evident that student loans affect credit ratings. Paying off student loans is unquestionably a cause for celebration. It can take decades for certain people to achieve this goal. However, do not expect a significant increase in good credit scores until the final payments are made.

Paying off student loans, like any other revolving loan or installment loan, has a small effect on creditworthiness. It can even temporarily lower individuals' ratings, but a slight decrease is not usually cause for alarm. The good news is that an individual has control over making payments and how to pay back the loan balance.

Making smart decisions when choosing how to pay for college is the first step in building and keeping a strong credit score.


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