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Help End the Student Debt Crisis (with Research)

posted by Dalié Jiménez

2014.11.09.Charge2America has a student debt problem. At over $1.6 trillion, outstanding student loan debt is the second-largest category of consumer debt after mortgages. Yet we still know relatively little about the effect of student loans on individuals, communities, states, and our country as a whole. For instance: What were the effects of income-driven repayment (IDR) plans on student borrowers’ financial health and spending habits? What credit usage behaviors predict student loan distress or defaults? Given the disparate impact of student debt on communities of color, what is the effect of this debt on their overall financial health and economic opportunity? 

The lack of answers to these questions motivated me and my UCI Law colleague Jonathan Glater to create the Student Loan Law Initiative (SLLI), a partnership with the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC). Our goal is to foster research that can arm policymakers, legislators, and advocates with the best information possible to find solutions to the student debt crisis. It's been a busy 9 months. I have three highlights to share: 

  • Tomorrow, we're hosting a symposium titled, Consumer Protection in the Age of the Student Debt CrisisThe day will bring together academics and student loan law practitioners from across the country to discuss where we are and to set the agenda for where to go from here. The event is free and open to the public and will be webcast live tomorrow (2/21) between 9:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. PST. Papers will be published in the UC Irvine Law Review later this year. Follow the events on twitter with #SLLI.
  • We've acquired two important datasets (including a credit panel with anonymized quarterly tradeline data on over 43 million consumers from 2004-19) that will help researchers answer some of these questions.
  • We've launched a new grants program to support researchers of student loan law. The program will offer grants of up to $15,000 to support research on the effects of student debt on consumers’ financial lives and their communities. We'll prioritize applicants who propose to work with one of the datasets we've acquired but are seeking applicants from all fields: law, higher education, economics, and sociology. We're accepting rolling applications through April 1, 2020.

Graphic credit: Blob defeats the student loan monster. Cartoon from the Financial Distress Research Project self-help materials.

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