Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


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Second Department

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Reader 1

Professor Eric Helland

Reader 2

Professor Shanna Rose

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According to Federal Reserve data, over 43 million Americans owe approximately $1.8 trillion in student loans. College is getting more expensive and consequently the amount of student loan debt per borrower has increased. Student loan programs were created to help individuals cover the cost of educational programs because the U.S. government saw higher education as an opportunity to increase the U.S.’s economic competitiveness and national security. This paper investigates the extent to which a person’s age, sex, race, and interactions thereof affect how leveraged the individual is, as measured by the ratio of student loan debt to household income. The student loan debt leverage ratios serve as a measure of the benefits to cost of college; a higher ratio indicates the borrower is more financially leveraged, which suggests that the burden of the student loan debt is higher relative to the benefits. The data appear to support my hypothesis that age, sex, and race affect the debt-to-income ratio. The distributional effects of these differences indicate which groups student loan programs are working for and which groups are being disproportionately harmed.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.