UW–Madison’s Nicholas Hillman appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Central Time recently to weigh in on the Biden administration’s options for student loan forgiveness and to discuss what the research consensus is about loan forgiveness.
Hillman is a professor with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, and the director of the Student Success through Applied Research (SSTAR) lab.
Hillman told Central Time that there is strong evidence for a policy that would reduce or cancel student debt up to $10,000. He said this makes sense because, surprisingly, when you look at students who have borrowed and then defaulted on their loans — “the ones struggling the most,” he said — their median student loan debt is only $11,000. Hillman said these individuals tend to have lower-than-average loan debts, because they went to college “for a little while” but did not earn a degree.
In short, he explained, “Default is connected to not getting a degree.” And going to college without earning a degree does not pay off in the labor market.
Beyond any short-term fix, however, Hillman said he is in favor of “reforming the whole entire loan system altogether” to update the technical infrastructure and streamline processes.
He also said that on the front end we need to talk about “how we pay for college in the first place.” For instance, he said we should consider how to make tuition and housing more affordable; likewise, we should consider increasing financial aid, so that students don’t need to take on loans that they will “carry with them for their lives.”
To learn more about this critical issue, check out the full interview with Hillman at wpr.org.