Student Debt and Education Justice 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.