Student Aversion to Borrowing: Who Borrows and Who Doesn't

Document Type

Issue/Research Brief/Blog

Publication Date



higher education students, financial status and behavior, economic barriers, financial education


A basic tenet of the Higher Education Act—that no one should be denied the opportunity for an education because of a lack of money—is just as relevant today as it was in 1965. However, for millions of students, the increasing cost of a college education, combined with lower rates of growth in grant aid, have resulted in additional reliance on student loans to pay for college. The large and growing role of student loans introduces a concern that an aversion to borrowing could be limiting college enrollment choices for some students.

This report investigates this possibility by highlighting the characteristics of undergraduate students who are least likely to borrow, using a number of quantitative demographic and enrollment characteristics as well as information from interviews with students and financial aid administrators. It presents a clear picture of the borrowing patterns of students who choose to enroll in college and provides suggestions about why certain students may not borrow, even when borrowing seems to be a logical choice.