Loan agreements, like any contract, reflect an "offer," the "acceptance of the offer," "consideration," and can only involve situations that are "legal" (a term loan agreement involving heroin drug sales is not "legal"). Loan agreements are documented via their commitment letters, agreements that reflect the understandings reached between the involved parties, a promissory note, and a collateral agreement (such as a mortgage or a personal guarantee). Loan agreements offered by regulated banks are different from those that are offered by finance companies in that banks receive a "banking charter" granted as a privilege and involving the "public trust."
It is an unsaid rule in the world of loans that one needs a co-signer to ensure that the student loan gets approved. That said, it does not mean that you would not get loans if you do not have a co-signer to sign on your agreement. There are some lenders in the market who would offer loans to you with you having to worry about the co-signer.
Private student Loans is another alternative that comes into force rescuing students who have a bad credit history. I have heard of many cases where students apply for loans as a supplement with their Stafford or Perkins loans. In other cases, I have seen people applying for student loans with private organizations when their Stafford loan amount comes to an end.
"Investment banks" create loan agreements that cater to the needs of the investors whose funds they attempt to attract; "investors" are always sophisticated and accredited organizations not subject to bank regulatory supervision and the need to cater to the public trust. Investment banking activities are supervised by the SEC and their main focus is on whether the correct or proper disclosures are made to the parties who provide the funds.
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