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RELEASE: Report Reveals Student Loan Borrowers Struggling to Meet Basic Needs


March 15, 2023

Contact: Cody Hounanian

Report Reveals Student Loan Borrowers Struggling to Meet Basic Needs

A series of surveys shows student loan borrowers face persistent obstacles to afford food, shelter, and healthcare. SDCC’s report offers evidence that federal student loan relief programs must continue and underlines the need for additional support services.

The Beyond Student Debt report, an analysis of six surveys conducted between May 2020 and November 2022, found that an alarming number of people are unable to afford basic needs due to the burden of student debt and the economic impact of the pandemic. The surveys, which received between 23,532 and 58,733 participants, also shows that the federal student loan payment pause is essential for many borrowers as it enables them to allocate more funds towards basic necessities, such as food and housing. Findings include:

Borrowers experienced food insecurity at a rate 61% higher than the national average between 2020 and 2022

The percentage of borrowers struggling to pay for healthcare and medicine increased by 34% between 2020 and 2022

The percentage of borrowers who could not afford rent increased by 17% between 2020 and 2022

51% of borrowers reported feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed compared to the national average of just 15.6%

Borrowers were 8 times more likely to experience housing insecurity than the national average in 2022

SDCC is calling for several critical next steps. First, the Biden administration must ensure that federal student loan payments remain paused until permanent debt cancellation is secured. The study found that over 72% of borrowers have used the money saved during the payment pause to purchase food and nearly two-thirds of respondents directed their funds towards housing and utilities. 

Second, SDCC is launching the Beyond Student Debt campaign to offer resources and build support structures to help borrowers meet their basic needs. This campaign will offer a holistic approach to assisting borrowers with the cost of food, shelter, healthcare, and more. SDCC will serve as a vital link between borrowers and essential support resources by creating a directory of resources that will enable borrowers to access crucial support services, collaborate with partners that have experience supporting the needs of various communities, and, where possible, offer direct services to connect borrowers with government and nonprofit assistance programs.

“The findings of this study are deeply alarming. Millions of families are at risk of going hungry, being homeless, and harming their health due to the burden of student debt,” said Natalia Abrams, President and Founder of Student Debt Crisis Center. “We call on policymakers to take every step necessary to protect borrowers, including extending the payment pause and canceling debt."   “We must do better to support those who are pursuing higher education and the opportunities it provides. That is why SDCC is committing to offer comprehensive support for borrowers to ensure all of their needs are met” added Cody Hounanian, Executive Director of Student Debt Crisis Center. “Everything from food and housing resources to mental health resources are part of solving the personal student debt crisis family’s face. We hope that findings of this study will inspire allies to join us in this important new campaign.”

Student Debt Crisis Center is a national nonprofit representing over 2 million supporters. SDCC is dedicated to uplifting borrowers’ stories and advocating for an end to the student debt crisis through debt cancellation. For more information on our Beyond Student Debt report, click here.


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