Research from WGU Labs and Savi Shows Impact of Student Loans on Key Personal, Financial, and Educational Milestones

Borrowers without a bachelor's degree, women, Black borrowers, and LatinX borrowers are the most affected

SALT LAKE CITY, Jan. 10, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- WGU Labs, an affiliate of Western Governors University, and Savi, a social impact technology company that helps employees understand, optimize, and repay their student debt, today released findings from a study gauging the experience of borrowers and their readiness for repayment. 

This current student loan debt crisis has broad ramifications but has disproportionately impacted those least able to realize the benefits of higher education. Among those most impacted by student debt are those who hold debt but haven’t earned a bachelor’s degree, women, African American and/or Black individuals, and Hispanic and/or LatinX individuals.

WGU Labs and Savi identified four key findings from the survey:

  1. Of all borrowers, 43% reported struggling with student loans before the payment pause. Struggle was particularly high among Black and LatinX borrowers, borrowers without a bachelor's degree, and women. 
  2. Almost one-quarter of all borrowers reported regret, over 40% experienced stress, 20% reported hopelessness, and less than 40% said their education was worth the financial cost. Women, Black and LatinX borrowers, and those without a bachelor's degree experienced higher levels of regret, stress, and hopelessness, and perceived less worth in their education. 
  3. Student loans are delaying important financial milestones for borrowers, like saving for retirement, buying a home or car, and moving out of their parents’ house, as well as the accumulation of financial assets, like a savings, investment, and retirement account, emergency fund, insurance, and home that contribute to financial security and wealth building. 
  4. Student loans delay personal milestones for many borrowers including marriage, children, and further education, with borrowers with at least a bachelor's degree and men reporting higher levels of delay. 

“Student loan debt in the U.S. has nearly doubled in the last 12 years, totaling $1.76 trillion in 2023. With tuition costs continuing to rise, students are borrowing more in student loans and taking longer to pay them off,” said Dr. Betheny Gross, Research Director, WGU Labs. “These survey findings point to the deep and broad impact the student loan crisis is having on millions of Americans’ lives and prosperity. Action from services, universities, employers and more is needed now to reform the student loan crisis.” 

“It’s clear that borrowers, especially those without a bachelor’s degree, need more accessible education and support in understanding the federal loan repayment and forgiveness options available to them, like income-driven repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness,” said Aaron Smith, co-founder of Savi. “Otherwise, many federal repayment programs will continue to be underutilized by the borrowers they were designed to benefit most. We believe employers can play a uniquely valuable role in bridging this gap for borrowers in their employee community, and should consider providing a student loan education benefit, loan repayment assistance, and/or student loan retirement match, that can deliver better financial outcomes for the individual and organization at large. Ultimately, empowering employees as consumers means a healthier, happier, more engaged workforce.”

WGU Labs and Savi surveyed a nationally representative sample of 3,056 student loan borrowers aged 21 to 50 to gauge their readiness for repayment and to capture their experience as borrowers, particularly the impact borrowing has had on their key personal, financial, and educational milestones. Find the complete report at


About Savi
Savi is a social impact technology startup in Washington, D.C., that helps employees understand, optimize, and repay their student debt. The company was founded in 2017 by Aaron Smith and Tobin Van Ostern, long-time student loan experts and advocates. Savi’s mission is to solve the pressing student debt crisis affecting 46 million borrowers by helping them discover new repayment and loan forgiveness options. For more information, please visit

About WGU Labs
WGU Labs is the nonprofit EdTech consulting, incubation, research, and design arm of Western Governors University, where our mission is to identify and support scalable solutions that address the biggest challenges in education today.For more information, please visit




Drowning in Debt: Student Loans Weigh Down Borrowers Executive Summary

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