Dear Dave,

My mom is single, and she co-signed on my student loans for college. Would it affect her credit if I couldn’t or didn’t make the payments?

- Terri

Dear Terri,

Yes, it would. The truth is, your mom shouldn’t have co-signed for you in the first place. There’s only one reason lenders want a co-signer, and that’s because they’re afraid the person taking out the loan won’t be able to pay back what’s owed.

You’ll be trashing your and your mom’s credit if you don’t pay the bills on time. If she co-signed for you, and you don’t do the right thing and pay back the loans, she’ll start getting phone calls looking for the money, too. I don’t think you want to subject your mom to the stress and hassle of collector calls or bad marks on her credit, do you?

Believe me, I understand what happened. Your mom loves you, and she wants the best for you. She’s willing to do whatever it takes to help her daughter succeed. What I want you both to understand going forward is that the idea you have to borrow money to attend college - or do anything else, really - is a myth. There are many ways to get a great education, and find excellent career opportunities, without borrowing a dime. Scholarships and grants are everywhere these days. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with working before and during college to help cash-flow an education, or you can begin your studies at a community college where the costs are much less.

In addition to four-year schools and community colleges, anyone looking to further their education shouldn’t ignore the possibility of trade or technical schools. At these institutions, you can get valuable training that’s highly marketable. Not to mention completing a trade or technical school program usually takes less time and is cheaper than a bachelor’s degree. 

My goal here isn’t to fuss at you or beat you up, Terri. It’s just very important you understand what’s at stake - now and in the future. My hope is to give you and your mom some good information that will help each of you make smarter, more informed financial decisions down the road.

- Dave

Dave Ramsey is CEO of Ramsey Solutions. He has authored seven best-selling books, including "The Total Money Makeover." "The Dave Ramsey Show" is heard by more than 14 million listeners each week on 600 radio stations and multiple digital platforms. Follow Dave on the web at daveramsey.com and on Twitter at @DaveRamsey.