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Evaluations of Federal Financial Aid Information and Delivery Strategies: An Experiment Requiring Additional Loan Counseling for Student Borrowers

Contract Information

Current Status:



September 2019 – September 2024



Contract Number:



Abt Associates


Roughly two out of three students take out loans to pay for college, requiring them to make consequential decisions about how much to borrow and which type of loans. But many students lack the financial knowledge and skills to make good choices, underscored by the more than 500,000 who default on their loans each year. Colleges can only require federal loan borrowers to complete short, one-time counseling before receiving their loans ("entrance") and when they leave school ("exit"). To help these borrowers manage their debt, the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA), under the Experimental Sites Initiative authorized by section 487A(b) of the Higher Education Act of 1965, allowed colleges to require student borrowers to participate in additional annual loan counseling in the years between the already-mandated entrance and exit counseling. The Institute of Education Sciences is assessing the effectiveness of these waivers on students' borrowing and college progress and, later, loan repayment.

  • What types of colleges participated in the Loan Counseling Experiment and what kinds of additional loan counseling did they require?
  • Are student borrowers who receive two years of additional loan counseling more likely than their peers who do not receive additional loan counseling to take loans with better terms, borrow an affordable amount, and persist in college?
  • Do the effects of requiring two years of additional loan counseling vary by key characteristics of the students, the colleges they attend, or the kind of counseling provided?

A total of 35 colleges volunteered to participate in the Loan Counseling Experiment. These schools estimated identifying approximately 100,000 students who were eligible to participate in the experiment between the 2017–2018 and 2018–2019 financial aid award years. Students were randomly assigned to either complete the additional required loan counseling (once per year) or not complete any additional counseling. Participating colleges had discretion over the content and delivery of the loan counseling they could require, and reported on it through an annual survey conducted by FSA. Students' borrowing and school progress are being measured using administrative records from FSA.

The first report for the study is expected in 2024 and will be announced on

Key findings will be available after a study report is published.