Research News

Report by UW's Hillman examines trends in community college student loan debt

October 01, 2015
A report co-authored by UW-Madison's Nicholas Hillman, with Colleen Campbell of ​the Association of Community College Trustees, addresses trends in student borrowing and repayment in community colleges. 

Hillman and Campbell
Colleen Campbell and Nick Hillman delivered
testimony Sept. 28 at a Senate staff briefing
in Washington, D.C.
Hillman is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis and is an affiliate of the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE)

Hillman and Campbell were quoted in the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal, specifying that this issue is "not just a borrowing problem; it's a repayment problem."

The report reveals four key findings, some surprising, about factors that contribute to student loan default among community college students:

1. Students who borrow the least are the most likely to default.

2. Many defaulters take no action on their debt.

3. A large number of borrowers -- especially defaulters -- are earning few credits and not completing a credential.

4. Institutions lack access to complete information and a user-friendly way to analyze loan data. 

​In a Bloomberg article, the authors attempt to explain these findings. "Federal policymakers have created a redundant, complicated, and unnecessarily confusing loan system ... students are often confused and frustrated by the time they enter repayment."

These discoveries are important for all people working with higher education. In the report, the authors state that the "policies we recommend for improving students' outcomes are broadly applicable, not just to community colleges, but [to] all postsecondary institutions."

​On Sept. 28, the authors delivered testimony o​n their findings at a ​Senate staff briefing on Capitol Hill. 

Learn more about the report.