Report of the NASFAA Task Force on Student Loan Indebtedness

In light of increasing concern about student loans, debt levels, and rising default rates, which coincide with worries about college costs, affordability, and transparency, NASFAA convened a task force in 2012 to study this issue and make recommendations for improvement.

NASFAA’s Task Force on Student Indebtedness was charged with examining current trends and making recommendations aimed at improving the system for students and institutions throughout all stages of borrowing, including: pre-borrowing, in-school, and repayment. NASFAA’s Board of Directors reviewed and approved the recommendations featured in this report.


Anecdotal stories about student loan indebtedness are commonly heard in the halls of Capitol Hill, the mainstream news media, and at kitchen tables across the country. We know that borrowing has increased and that, as a result, students and families are shouldering a greater portion of the cost of college through loans than they have in years past. But we also know that the average loan debt for borrowers who earned a bachelor’s degree is, in fact, a manageable amount—coming in at about $26,500 for the class of 2011, according to The Institute for College Access and Success. Over a 10-year standard monthly repayment plan, the monthly payment would be just about the same as a modest car payment.

Unfortunately, too often the stories of statistical outliers grab public attention and drive policy discussions. Focusing on outliers inhibits our collective ability to really focus on student and parent borrowers who need help the most. The NASFAA community acknowledges that dramatic student loan borrowing is certainly problematic, but it is even more important to acknowledge that what should be manageable amounts of borrowing can spiral out of control when students are not academically prepared for college, repayment tools are not readily accessible, schools have little to no control over borrowing, or the borrower has had inadequate financial literacy counseling or preparation. 

NASFAA’s Board of Directors reviewed and approved the recommendations featured in this report. Taken together, we hope that they will have a meaningful impact on student and parent borrowers who are struggling to cope with loan indebtedness.

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