Gates Foundation to Fund Student Debt, Financial Aid Study

Thanks to funding by the Gates Foundation, higher education advocacy groups from across the country will now work together to study the problems and issues surrounding student loan repayments. The research will represent a second phase of the Reimagining Aid Design and Delivery, which looked at changes that could improve the current method of financial aid delivery used by schools and governments in the United States.

The grant – which totals $310,000 – will focus on student loan debt. In light of a recent indication by the Federal Reserve that student debt could play a destabilizing role in the country’s future economy, figuring out better repayment mechanisms should be a priority.

Nine student-aid advocacy and research organizations have announced that they will serve as a consortium to look specifically at issues and challenges pertaining to student loan repayment, with an emphasis on income-based repayment. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), Young Invincibles, Institute for Higher Education Policy, HCM Strategists, New America Foundation, National College Access Network, Committee for Economic Development, the National Campus Leadership Council, and Association of Public and Land-grant Universities will take part in Reimagining Aid Design and Delivery (RADD) Phase #2, through a $310,000 shared grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The consortium will be looking closely at the pluses and minuses of various income-based repayment programs and analyzing ways that programs already in place could be improved — and if students, families and the US economy could benefit from their expansion. The findings will be combined into a white paper which will include the conclusions on the income-based repayment research, and is scheduled for release in 2014.

“Our nine groups include some of the leading national experts around student loans in general, and income-based repayment in particular,” said Young Invincibles Executive Director Aaron Smith. “We come from across the ideological spectrum, representing a variety of stakeholders in the student loan process. This diversity is critical to crafting compelling new research as well as promoting pragmatic, impactful ideas that can gain traction and influence policymakers.”

“The consortium represents both students and financial aid administrators, two critical constituencies that must be engaged to create the necessary momentum to turn student loan policy reform ideas into reality,” added NASFAA President Justin Draeger. “During the RADD: Phase #1 process, many groups discussed the importance of examining the student loan system—and repayment options in particular. This work will build on that broad discussion with more specific research and analysis.”