Zhan, M., X. Xiang, and W. Elliott III. 2018. “How Much Is Too Much: Education Loans and College Graduation.” Educational Policy 32 (7): 993–1017.
The purpose of this study was to offer advice concerning the relationship between educational loans and graduation rates and how this relationship varies based on race and ethnicity. The authors appropriately used discrete-time survival analytic techniques to determine the borrowing patterns of 3,445 individuals across 15 survey administrations. Limited by their secondary data source (the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth), the authors were unable to pinpoint the type of loan (subsidized, unsubsidized, state, federal, or private) and its relationship to graduation rates, but they were able to identify the amount borrowed that seemed to tip the scales in favor of not completing college. In short, educational loans shared a positive relationship with graduation rates, but only up to a point: $19,753. Beyond that figure, the relationship between educational loans and graduation rates began to weaken for everyone, including students who identified as black or, in the authors’ language, “Hispanic” (p. 993).
DISCUSSION OF THE FINDINGS
The second point of interest involved how this tipping point varied based on race and ethnicity. For black students, the tipping point was about $21,000 while for Hispanic students, the tipping point was about $24,000. The authors scrutinized these findings, given their expectation that minority students would have a lower borrowing tolerance threshold than those of white students. They suggested that a more current and robust data set might yield different results, so “we must be cautious interpreting these findings” (p. 1009).
IMPLICATIONS FOR ACTION BY CAMPUS LEADERS
About the Author
Min Zhan is a professor and associate dean for academic programs, School of Social Work, University of Illinois.
Xiaoling Xiang is assistant professor of social work at the University of Michigan.
William Elliott III is professor of social work and director, joint doctoral program in social work and social science, at the University of Michigan.
Literature Readers May Wish to Consult
Council of Independent Colleges. November 2018. “Student Debt: Myths and Facts.” Sixth edition.
Heller, D. E. 2008. “The Impact of Student Loans on College Access.” In The Effectiveness of Student Aid Policies: What the Research Tells Us, edited by S. Baum, M. McPherson, and P. Steele, 39–67. New York: College Board.
Hillman, N. W. 2014. “College on Credit: A Multilevel Analysis of Student Loan Default.” The Review of Higher Education 37: 169–195.