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.