Research News

‘Loan aversion’ is focus of new higher ed study


While many would be-college students view student loans as a necessary part of achieving their educational goals, a significant subset of the population is “loan averse,” meaning they would rather work their way through school or forego college altogether than take out a student loan.

A new two-year Vanderbilt study seeks to better understand students’ potential aversion to borrowing for college and to test an intervention designed to reduce it.

The project is supported by Lumina Foundation, an independent, private foundation committed to increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60 percent by 2025.

Angela Boatman and Brent Evans, both assistant professors of public policy and higher education at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development, lead the study.


“As the college-going population becomes increasingly diverse, it is critically important that we understand the underlying mechanisms by which prospective students make decisions about whether and how to finance their education beyond high school,” Boatman said.

The researchers will measure the extent of loan aversion among a diverse population of high school seniors, students attending community colleges and adults not currently enrolled in higher education across the United States.

They will also assess whether loan aversion differs across demographic characteristics such as gender, race and first generation college status.


“If loan aversion does exist,” said Evans, “there is likely a subset of students who may not enroll in college, or may enroll in a college that is not the best match, because they are hesitant to borrow.”

The study will experimentally test whether providing information about income-driven loan repayment options reduces aversion to borrowing and leads to higher rates of college-going and college persistence.

Adela Soliz, advanced doctoral student at Harvard Graduate School of Education, is a collaborator on the study.

Read more about their ongoing research on loan aversion.