Unrepayable Debt: How Economic, Racial, & Geographic Inequality Shape the Distribution of Parent PLUS Loans

Each year, millions of parents across the U.S seek to help their children pay for higher education using the only source of federal financial aid for parents: the Parent PLUS loan program. Despite offering an additional college financing option, Parent PLUS disproportionately distributes unrepayable debt by income level, race and ethnicity, geography, and higher education sector, burdening low-income parents with immense debt. This chartbook examines key features of Parent PLUS loan borrower experiences, finding that Parent PLUS burdens parents and students from low-income households, Black families, and students attending postsecondary institutions in the South. Understanding this uneven distribution of Parent PLUS debt is vital in order for policymakers, postsecondary administrators, and advocates to redesign the program and develop a more equitable higher education financing system for parents and students.

Obstacles to Opportunity: Increasing College Success by Understanding & Addressing Older Students’ Costs Beyond Tuition

Higher education offers millions of people the opportunity to improve their financial well-being. However, higher education is prohibitively expensive and can saddle people with insurmountable debt. Costs beyond tuition—such as housing, food, child care, and transportation—are large, essential components of the cost of attending college for students. In order to better understand how these living costs add up and vary, this report offers estimates of costs beyond tuition for older students between the ages of 25 – 45, who make up roughly one-third of college students and face unique barriers to college access and completion. The report shows that the real cost of college for older students is higher than commonly understood, examines older students’ challenges with financial aid and public benefits programs, and offers policy recommendations to address costs beyond tuition and improve college access and success for older students.

Driving Home Costs Beyond Tuition: A New Look at Older Students’ Challenges Affording Housing

For many students, the real cost of college is even higher than commonly understood. Although rising tuition costs limit college affordability, living costs—such as housing, food, and transportation—are equally essential for students striving to afford and complete college. This report examines older students’ particular challenges to college completion, describes how current measurements of costs beyond tuition do not adequately reflect older students’ experiences, and offers new estimates of older students’ spending on housing, which is typically the single greatest cost older students face.