UW – Madison’s Hillman weighs in on student loan forgiveness options at WPR Central Time


May 24, 2022

UW-Madison’s Nicholas Hillman recently appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Central Time to weigh in on the Biden administration’s options for student loan forgiveness and to discuss the research consensus on the loan cancellation.


Hillman is a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis in the School of Education and director of the Student success through applied research (SSTAR) laboratory.

Hillman told Central Time that there is strong evidence of a policy that would reduce or cancel student debt by up to $10,000. He said that made sense because, surprisingly, when you look at students who borrowed and then defaulted on their payment obligations — “those who are struggling the most,” he said — their median loan debt student is only $11,000. Hillman said these people tend to have lower-than-average loan debt because they went to college “for a little while” but didn’t graduate.

In short, he explained, “the defect is about not getting a degree.” And going to college without a degree doesn’t pay off in the job market.

Beyond any short-term fix, however, Hillman said he favors “reforming the entire lending system” to update technical infrastructure and streamline processes.

He also said that in the beginning we needed to talk about “how we pay for college in the first place”. For example, he said we should think about how to make tuition and housing more affordable; similarly, we should also consider increasing financial aid, so that students do not need to take out loans that they will “carry with them for life”.

To learn more about this critical issue, see the full interview with Hillman at wpr.org.


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