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SLLI periodically provides grants to support leading academics as they conduct research on the effects of student debt on consumers’ financial lives and their communities. Grants are awarded up to $15,000 per project and are administered by the Student Borrower Protection Center.

The SLLI research program is an opportunity to explore the spillover effects of student debt on the economy and society by offering a closer look at the consequences of rising debt for those hardest hit by this crisis—in particular, borrowers of color and their communities. By filling gaps in data that impede policymaking, SLLI scholarship offers empirical evidence for those seeking to help borrowers struggling under the weight of rising and unprecedented student debt.

SLLI’s first round of research grants, announced in 2020, support scholars across six unique projects with the goal of offering empirical evidence for those seeking to help borrowers struggling under the weight of rising and unprecedented student debt. Research areas supported by SLLI’s 2020 grants include the effect of student debt on borrowers’ financial lives, disparate lending patterns among marginalized communities, and policies for improving access to affordable repayment plans. These grants were awarded to more than a dozen leading experts from a wide range of fields including law, higher education, economics, and sociology.

See the 2020 Research Grant Awardees here.



For the first time in more than two years, the Student Loan Research Grants program will offer awards of up to $15,000 to interested researchers, academics, and other experts across disciplines to conduct foundational scholarship on the student debt crisis and its widespread effects on borrowers, their communities, and the nation.

Grantees will produce at least one piece of original research providing empirical evidence for those seeking to help borrowers struggling under the weight of rising and unprecedented student debt.

Those interested in applying for a research grant can find information about how to apply here. The program is accepting rolling applications through January 15, 2023. If you have any questions about the grants program or the datasets, please email

2022-2023 Research Grant Announcement

2020 Research Grant Awardees

Research Grant #1: Predatory Inclusion: Consequences of Lending and Borrowing in Financially Excluded Communities

SLLI awarded a grant to Raphaël Charron-Chénier, Assistant Professor of Sociology and of Justice and Social Inquiry at Arizona State University. Professor Charron-Chénier’s extensive work on racial disparities in the student loan market have made him a foremost expert on predatory inclusion—the idea that marginalized borrowers and borrowers of color are offered particular credit products under subpar conditions that would not be offered to other communities. Professor Charron-Chénier used SLLI’s proprietary datasets to explore inequities in the quality of credit extended to student loan borrowers of color and document how those disparate lending patterns lead to disparate outcomes. Professor Charron-Chénier’s work provided policy makers with critical insights to help address systemic disparities in the notoriously opaque student loan market.

Research Grant #2: Understanding and Encouraging Enrollment in Income-Driven Repayment Programs


SLLI awarded a grant to Brian Galle, Adam Levitin, and John Brooks, all professors of law at Georgetown University Law Center. These leading consumer and tax law scholars will conduct research on how borrowers access critical repayment protections such as income-driven repayment (IDR). Their research explored how intrinsic borrower data points—such as demographic background or assigned student loan servicer—impact enrollment in repayment plans, the cost that borrowers ultimately pay for their loans, and how likely borrowers are to fall into delinquency or default. The scholars then evaluated the role of tax policy in improving broadscale borrower outcomes. This groundbreaking research provides policymakers a roadmap for integrating essential repayment protections to provide better, more accessible protections for student loan borrowers.  

Research Grant #3: The Effects of Income-Driven Repayment on Borrowers’ Financial Health, Employment, and Graduate School Enrollment

SLLI awarded a grant to Lesley Turner, Associate Professor of Economics at Vanderbilt University, and Rajeev Darolia, Associate Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Kentucky. Professors Turner and Darolia uses SLLI datasets in conjunction with other data to explore the long-term impact of income-driven repayment (IDR) on borrowers’ financial lives. Their research explored the long-term benefits that this critical protection provides borrowers across their financial lives and broader decision making, including the impact of IDR on borrowers’ future earnings, educational investments and household formation. To date, policymakers have lacked the insight needed to craft fulsome solutions to address the domino effect of student debt. This research helps to complete the puzzle, revealing if and how IDR can be used to mitigate the longer-term ramifications of student debt. 

Research Grant #4: Student Debt and Housing Wealth 

SLLI awarded a grant to Lesley Turner, Jeremy Burke, and Juan Saavedra. Jeremy Burke and Juan Saavedra are both economists at the University of Southern California Center for Economic and Social Research. Lesley Turner is an Associate Professor of Economics at Vanderbilt University and was also awarded a separate SLLI grant for research on income-driven student loan repayment. Together, these scholars examine the effect of student loans on intergenerational wealth by linking SLLI datasets with California state tax records and housing data from Zillow. The grantees examine how shocks to home values stemming from the Great Recession impacted student loan debt and subsequent housing wealth in California, offering new insight into the link between family wealth, student loan utilization, and lifetime financial outcomes for borrowers. As policymakers work to address systemic racial disparities in America’s financial markets, this work will provide unprecedented insight into the key role student debt plays in perpetuating these disparities across generations.   

Research Grant #5: Income-Driven Repayment Enrollment and Post-College Financial Behaviors and Outcomes

SLLI awarded a grant to Daniel Collier, Dan Fitzpatrick, and Christopher Marsicano. Daniel Collier is currently a Research Fellow for The College Crisis Initiative at Davidson College. Dan Fitzpatrick currently serves as a Research and Assessment specialist for the LSA Opportunity Hub at the University of Michigan. Christopher Marsicano is an Assistant Professor of the Practice of Higher Education at Davidson College in North Carolina. Together, the scholars use SLLI’s proprietary datasets to expand upon prior research into income-driven repayment. Specifically, they will examine the traits of students likely to participate in IDR, taking into account recent policy reforms, and examine what financial behaviors and situations IDR enrollment influences in turn. As policymakers and regulators work to address the disconnect between the protections offered under federal law and the reality in borrower outcomes, this research sheds new light on how efforts can better assist America’s most vulnerable borrowers.


Research Grant #6: Race, Class, and Student Debt as a System of Social Stratification


SLLI is awarding a grant to Charlie Eaton and Laura Hamilton, Professors of Sociology at the University of California, Merced, along with Adam Goldstein and Frederick Wherry, Professors of Sociology at Princeton University. The professors will engage in several distinct projects using SLLI’s proprietary historical FFELP loan data, including examining the role of for-profit school ownership structures in borrower outcomes and studying the effectiveness of state solutions to predatory for-profit institutions, such as state grant eligibility, consumer disclosures, recruitment incentive bans, and enforcement actions. Moreover, the professors will use SLLI’s datasets to explore the role of the secondary student loan refinance market in exacerbating racial and social class inequalities. As for-profit institutions continue to saddle borrowers with tens of thousands of dollars in loans that they will struggle to repay, this research will reveal the most effective policy interventions that state and federal policymakers and regulators can use to increase oversight and accountability of these companies. 

2020 Research Grant Awardees
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