Today, most four-year college graduates have borrowed to pay for their education, and students across the higher education system—from major universities, to community colleges, to other types of postsecondary institutions —take on debt to pursue advancement.
But many of these borrowers struggle with repayment and end up in default. Nationwide, policymakers, higher education institutions, and other experts are working to craft effective, evidence-based solutions to the challenges of student debt. However, a lack of key data about the causes of default, and barriers to exiting it, has limited public and policymaker understanding of this issue.
The Pew Charitable Trusts’ student loan research initiative is working to address this information gap by providing research and analysis to inform the public and illuminate discussions around possible solutions. The project is similarly exploring the situation of military veterans—a unique but important subset of those with student debt. The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act, known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill and passed by Congress in 2008, made the most generous and comprehensive federal investment in veterans’ higher education in history, covering the cost of in-state tuition, fees, books, and even housing. Then, in August 2017, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act—the Forever GI Bill—became law and expanded those benefits. Nevertheless, some veterans take out loans despite having access to GI Bill funds. More research is needed to understand the scope and scale of veterans’ debt, and to understand why a significant number of veterans borrow even while eligible for federal support.