Student Debt and Education Justice Project


About the Project

Borrowers owe over $1 trillion in student loans.  Students who default on loans—regardless of whether their job prospects actually improved after enrolling in the college or the course—experience a host of negative consequences. Those consequences can include destroyed credit scores, wage and social security garnishment, lost security clearances, and a debt burden that cannot be discharged, even in bankruptcy. Recent reports indicate that many for-profit colleges engage in predatory lending practices, misrepresent whether the program will allow the student to get a job in a particular area, or target and enroll students who are unlikely to complete the program.

Defaulting students lose the very economic mobility they sought through post-secondary education. The debt burden cripples low-income communities, undermines access to education, and poses a danger to the larger economy.


The Women and the Law Program’s new Student Debt and Education Justice Project will address the causes and consequences of student debt, particularly for low-income students by engaging in legal and policy advocacy and research. 

  • Creating a clinical program to provide legal representation to low-income student loan borrowers;
  • Implementing an interdisciplinary research agenda that examines factors that contribute to the student loan debt problem, the consequences of default, and the connections between student debt and access to education.
  • Educating members of the media and public regarding the need for improved regulation of the student loan industry and for-profit educational institutions.
  • Making recommendations to improve background legal rules and policies.

This Project proceeds under the premise that enrolling in higher-education should be a benefit, not a detriment, for lower-income students.

Student Debt and Education Justice Blog

The SDEJ blog brings together research, news and commentary on how law shapes the financing of higher education, and how the increasing turn to student loans shapes opportunity for individuals, access to resources for families and communities, and the structure of the workforce and economy.  It highlights the laws underlying high levels of student debt, and looks at how legal tools might be used to encourage alternative means of funding higher education.