The Institute for College Access & Success is a trusted source of research, design, and advocacy for student-centered public policies that promote affordability, accountability, and equity in higher education. Our Project on Student Debt increases public understanding of rising student debt and the implications for our families, economy, and society.

Since 2005, we have worked to strengthen Pell Grants, which reduce students’ need to borrow; increase investment in public colleges, which serve three-quarters of undergraduates; and create and improve income-driven repayment plans, which keep federal student loan payments more manageable for millions of borrowers. However, much work remains to secure truly equitable access to an affordable, quality higher education; below are our key recommendations for federal policymakers.

Extend and Expand COVID-19 Emergency Relief

  • Extend duration and expand coverage for monthly payment relief
  • Provide additional loan relief for distressed borrowers
  • Deliver additional relief to states and colleges


Increase Access to Need-Based Student Aid

  • Secure and improve Pell Grants
  • Establish a new federal-state partnership to fund public colleges
  • Further simplify the federal financial aid application process
  • Streamline and improve higher education tax benefits


Make Loan Repayment Simple, Manageable, and Fair

  • Simplify and improve income-driven repayment (IDR)
  • Automatically enroll distressed borrowers in IDR
  • Improve student loan servicing
  • Restore bankruptcy protections for student loan borrowers
  • Ensure the Consequences of Student Loan Default Are Not Overly Punitive


Improve Postsecondary Data and Consumer Information Tools

  • Bring the postsecondary data system into the 21st century
  • Collect private student loan data
  • Improve and promote tools to help students make informed college decisions


Enhance and Improve Institutional Accountability

  • Strengthen policies to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse


Reduce Risky Private Loan Borrowing

  • Require school certification of private loans
  • Increase community college students’ access to federal student loans
  • Require private lenders to discharge loans in the event of death or severe disability