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In 2021, over 561,000 families borrowed a Parent PLUS Loan (PPL) at an average amount of $17,810,  representing 10% of all federal loan originations. The burden of PPLs disproportionately falls upon Black, Latinx, and low-income families who are more likely to borrow, borrow higher amounts, and face challenges in repayment.

With the support of Arnold Ventures, researchers gathered together to conduct a two-year, mixed-methods project that drew plausibly causal links between PPLs and students’ academic and extracurricular outcomes and contextualize borrowing and repayment by centering Black, Latinx, and low-income students and parents alongside financial aid administrators.

Existing research has overlooked the impact of PPLs on students’ short- and long-term outcomes and failed to document experiences of students, parents, and administratorsin the PPL arena. Although many students utilize PPLs, the program is a contributor to the racial wealth gap given differences in who borrows, how much they borrow, and where they attend.

Our study examined these overlooked factors and created a new research foundation for understanding how PPLs may contribute to inequalities in students’ outcomes and experiences.