Optimizing Financial Education Utilization


Do You Know What You Owe? Students' Understanding of Their Student Loans

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



economic barriers, financial education, loan repayment


Using a data set that augments a student survey with administrative data from the Iowa State University Office of Financial Aid, the authors posed two questions: Do students know whether they have student loans? Do students know how much they owe on outstanding student loans? We used logistic and ordered logit regressions to answer these questions. Results suggest that although the majority of students are aware that they owe on student loans, many underestimate the amount they owe. One eighth of students in the current study reported no student debt when, in fact, they had a loan. Over a quarter of the students underestimated the amount they owed by less than $10,000, and nearly one tenth of students underestimated the amount that they owed by more than $10,000. This article discusses the roles that counselors, educators, and policy makers can play in improving students’ understanding of their student loan debt.