Thank you for your reply and for clarifying.
As it sounds like you know, when you are a surety, you commit yourself to paying for the loan or taking on the responsibilities to act if the other person does not honor her obligations. However, you can specify a fixed amount as the extent of your liability, and you won’t have to pay more than that amount (whereas a co-signer is responsible always for the full amount remaining). So, it's worth reviewing that agreement and seeing if it specifies an amount.
Another difference between co-signers and a surety is that generally, if you provided surety for a loan, the creditor must request payment from the main borrower and can contact you only if the borrower can’t pay back the loan, versus when you co-sign, the lender can simply go straight to you, even if the other borrower misses just a single payment. They may not even pursue the other borrower first.
Ultimately, however, much like if you were a co-signer, your remedies are the same. If you end up paying the loan, you then have to seek repayment from the other borrower -the ex-girlfriend. This could mean having to file suit against them in court, and even if you're successful, doesn't guarantee that they will honor the judgment, of course, which could mean more time and money spent trying to garnish wages, seize assets, etc. to satisfy repayment.
I realize this definitely is not what you want to hear. Being a surety or co-signer is risky, and although I understand why you agreed to do what you did, it put you in a very bad spot now. If the loan isn't repaid, your credit can take a hit. And unlike other private debts, getting a student loan discharged in a bankruptcy is very, very difficult due to changes that were made to bankruptcy laws.
While the news isn't better, understand that it would be unfair to you, and unethical of me, to tell you less than the truth.
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