The Critical Issue of Student Loan Default

Pew’s student loan initiative explores who experiences default and why, as well as the related impacts

The Pew Charitable Trusts

Federal student loan default—when a payment is not made for 270 days or more—can have serious consequences, including affecting a borrower's credit score, financial stability, and overall economic well-being. Before the pandemic, nearly 1 in 5 borrowers had a defaulted loan.

Experts from The Pew Charitable Trusts have been researching the experiences borrowers have with default and the barriers to putting default behind them and staying current in repayment. As borrowers continue to engage with a repayment system that has historically not set them up for success, understanding these issues is critical to heading off future struggles.

This collection focuses on default by exploring the prevalence of default and redefault rates, how these vary across several borrower characteristics, what people experience during collections and in pathways exiting default, and why so many have historically struggled with repayment. Pew’s research seeks to help inform how the Department of Education can support borrowers in staying out of default moving forward as well as provide access to more affordable repayment options.


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