GSE Publications

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version

November 2007


Although the use of loans to finance postsecondary educational expenses seems commonplace, the emphasis of the U.S. financial aid system on loans may limit college opportunity for individuals who are unwilling or unable to incur this type of debt. This study uses data from descriptive case studies of 15 high schools to examine four guiding questions: What are high school students' perceptions of loans? How do parents and school staff shape students' perceptions of loans? What other forces contribute to students' perceptions of loans? How do students' perceptions of loans vary across schools? The findings illustrate that, although virtually all students are aware of loans, willingness to borrow varies across schools. The study also describes the ways that families and school personnel shape students’ perceptions of loans. The paper concludes with implications for policy, practice, and future research.


Postprint version. Published in Research in Higher Education, November 2007, pages 589-606.
Publisher URL:


loans, college enrollment, counseling



Date Posted: 06 November 2008