Q: I’m going to be attending college in the fall. My estimated cost of attendance is going to be in the neighborhood of $25,000 per year.

I’ve already completed my general education requirements for free at a community college, so I have only two years of school remaining.

Through my savings and some scholarships, I’ll have around $10,000 when I start, and I’ll be able to take out a federal Stafford loan without a cosigner to cover much of the remaining cost.

It’s looking like I’ll have to take out about $4,000 in private loans to cover the final amount I’ll owe. My parents will have to co-sign for this loan and I’m wondering what a $4,000 student loan debt will do to their credit histories and scores.

Does the amount of the co-signed loan factor in to how badly the co-signing will affect them when they go to sell their house and buy a new one with a new mortgage?

A: Congratulations on figuring out how to be smart with your schooling, and for saving up a significant chunk of the expenses you’ll need.

If you want to try and defray more of your expenses on campus, you could look for a part-time job. Or, you might just go ahead with private loans. The good news is that President Obama just signed into a law a student loan bill that will make it cheaper and easier for you to get a loan (after July 1, 2010) and will increase the amount of Pell grant money.

To your question about your parents’ credit histories, signing onto a $4,000 per year student loan shouldn’t hurt their credit histories and scores very much, if at all. That will happen only if YOU fail to make your payments on those loans.

Co-signing a student loan or a mortgage or an auto loan puts the co-signer on the hook for the entire loan amount. So if for any reason you find you’re unable to pay the bill on your student loans, please tell them (before the payment is due) so they can make the payments and protect their credit.

If you miss a payment on a student loan, their credit history will show that they missed that payment, and their credit score will tumble.

But you seem to be the kind of responsible kid any parent would want – heck you’re even asking the right questions now, before you’ve signed onto the student loan. I have a feeling you’ll be just fine.

Congratulations on developing a savvy college tuition payment plan.