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UB Survey Results: Student Loan Debt and Student Success

The importance of borrower outreach and financial education
University Business, June 2018

Student loan debt—as well as delinquency and defaults—continue to be serious concerns among students, alumni, parents, higher ed institutions and their communities. The financial burdens on students can negatively impact both their success while enrolled and after graduation, as well as the enrollment, finances and public image of institutions as a whole.

University Business recently conducted a survey of over 400 higher ed leaders about the impacts of student loan debt on student and institutional success. This web seminar explored the results of this survey, and discussed strategies and best practices for borrower outreach, financial education and other ways to address this important issue.


Kurt Eisele-Dyrli 
Research Editor
University Business

Craig P. Anderson
Student Connections

Bob Collins
Vice President, Financial Aid
Western Governors University

K. Eisele-Dyrli: The first question asks, “What effect do you think delinquency, late payments and/or defaults has on the image of your institution?” The slight leader was “moderately damaging,” followed by “does not negatively affect the image.”

Craig Anderson: I find these results very interesting when you consider how much media focus there is on student loan debt concerns. While I think there is some concern about image, it doesn’t seem to be impacting enrollment negatively. I think some of the concerns about student loan debt are more retrospective—looking back after they’ve enrolled, then they worry about debt.

K. Eisele-Dyrli: The next question: “For students and alumni, what effect does this have from their perspective at an institution?” The leader was “a moderate threat” followed by “a substantial threat,” and then “does not negatively affect.”

Bob Collins: Students who do not complete their program of study borrowed less, but they are the ones who have the hardest time in repayment because they didn’t get that career advancement. With respect to the moderate and substantial threat, if you’re that delaying home ownership. It’s discouraging young entrepreneurs from starting their own businesses. They’re delaying getting married and having children. Those effects have serious long-term consequences. So student loan debt is certainly a concern, and it is a challenge.

K. Eisele-Dyrli: “Which of the following regulatory actions do you think are most likely to occur within the next two years?” The top choice by far was “new or increased financial literacy program requirements at the federal level.”

Craig Anderson: Program requirements at the state level are increasing—we are already aware of six states that are requiring financial literacy for students. So it follows that you might see more of a federal requirement for it. Risk-sharing is a very big topic, and one that has seen bipartisan support.

K. Eisele-Dyrli: “Which of the following factors are the greatest threats to your students’ success repaying their student loans?” The top three are very closely grouped: “failure to complete degree or program of study,” “over-borrowing” and then “poor money management decisions.”

Craig Anderson: For a lot of the students we talk to, the reason they didn’t complete their degree is because they had some sort of life event that they couldn’t cope with simultaneously with the work of the academic program. So it gets back to financial litborrower, absolutely it affects your success if you’re late, delinquent or in default.

K. Eisele-Dyrli: “What effect have delinquency, defaults, and/or late payments had on the finances of your institution?” Once again, “moderate” is the leader. But then second is those saying “doesn’t have a negative impact” on the finances. “Substantial” came in at 17 percent.

Craig Anderson: The ultimate impact is if students trip over the 30 percent default rate for enough years that the school might lose eligibility to the Title IV programs, but most colleges aren’t falling into those kinds of difficulties. It’s probably not hugely impactful to most schools’ finances because loan funds are available.

K. Eisele-Dyrli: “Overall, how difficult do you think it is for students who have attended your institution to repay their student loans?” The leader by far was “somewhat.” Second was “extremely difficult.”

Bob Collins: We do our best to help students make informed decisions at the point of borrowing and at the point of repayment. All this student loan debt is eracy, money management skills and time management skills.

K. Eisele-Dyrli: “Is your alumni office concerned about the impact of student loan repayment difficulties on giving?” The top answer is “unsure.” But if you add up “yes,” “moderately” and “very concerned,” you get about 45 percent.

Bob Collins: I would be concerned if I was in any alumni office and the student debt continued to increase.

K. Eisele-Dyrli: “Does your institution conduct outreach to borrowers to minimize defaults?” “Yes” was about 45 percent, about 15 percent said “no,” and 38 percent said “unsure.”

Craig Anderson: The school’s job is to educate the students and help them move into a successful employment position after graduation. We have invested a lot of time and effort into building our Borrower Connect platform, which is a way to help manage all the outreach to those tens of thousands of students every day. The important thing here is using deep analytics to understand the best ways to reach out to them, and even when we need to reach out to them. The six months between the time they leave school and start repayment is when you can have the most impact on helping a student succeed.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, visit