Research News

Hillman paper synthesizes most recent, rigorous research on student loan debt

November 06, 2015

UW-Madison’s Nick Hillman is the author of a recently released paper in the Journal of Student Financial Aid titled, “Borrowing and Repaying Student Loans.”

Hillman is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, and an affiliate of the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE)

Nicholas Hillman
The paper’s abstract notes: “This essay synthesizes the most recent and rigorous research on student loan debt. It focuses on basic questions about who borrows, how much, and whether debt affects behaviors. Answers to these questions are necessary for informing federal student loan policymaking, yet the research findings are surprisingly mixed because of poor data quality, research design challenges, and the growing heterogeneity of borrowers. This ambiguity makes federal policymaking difficult when questions about the benefits and burdens of student loan debt are left unanswered. By synthesizing the current research, this essay helps answer some of these questions while calling attention to others.”

With the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965 on the horizon, Hillman makes the following implications: "Future reauthorizations will continue to be interested in fundamental questions about who borrows, how much, and how debt affects students. However, the rapid growth in debt is pushing the current reauthorization into new frontiers that have not previously been explored in depth. This makes it even more difficult for student loan research to answer important policy questions. We do not even have clear or consistent agreement on some of the fundamental questions, which makes it even more challenging to respond to new questions posed by policymakers."