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Key Information Sources for Student Loan Borrowers

Posted 6/20/2023

During the three-year payment pause, Student Connections counseled over 700,000 student loan borrowers. Recently, we conducted a survey of our front-line support borrower advocates regarding the motives, questions, and concerns borrowers have.

One question we asked was, “Where and how do student loan borrowers get their information?” The answers our staff provided are vital to understanding borrowers’ mindset. They also provide channels you can use to communicate with borrowers. Keep reading to learn what we found.

Where Do Borrowers Turn for Information?

Based on our research and interactions with borrowers, we’ve found they get information from a number of sources that can be grouped into four broad categories:

  • Institutional – The U.S. Department of Education (ED), federal student loan servicers, and schools
  • Private Sector – News media and companies like Student Connections
  • Informal – Friends, family, rumors, and social media
  • Bad Actors – Scammers targeting student loan borrowers

Most borrowers are connected to more than one source of information.

Institutional Sources

ED, loan servicers, and schools are generally considered the most legitimate source of borrower information. That credibility is built on their authority and reliability. Over the past few years, those institutions have become less reliable.

Borrowers have been repeatedly told to get ready for repayment, and seen the payment pause extended eight times. They’ve been promised loan forgiveness, told to sign up, and watched the program become stuck in court battles. The powers-that-be have changed the facts on the ground a dozen times. The reasons why and who bears responsibility don’t matter to them.

The point is, borrowers possesses a healthy amount of skepticism towards institutions. Expect them to question topics you consider settled fact. Expect them to be angry because rules have changed. Be patient as we emerge from a chaotic time.

Private Sector Sources

Information distributed by private sector sources can vary wildly. While institutional sources seek to provide the most accurate updates, private sector sources may prioritize engagement and speed of publication over accuracy.

You may have to combat misconceptions spread by writers lacking knowledge of the federal student loan program. This ignorance may result in the unhelpful regurgitation of confusing press releases from ED. Worse, a writer may unknowingly amplify misinformation by citing bad sources.

Take a moment to scan articles about student loans on major news outlets, especially when the news is first released. It may give you insight into how official communication is being misinterpreted and what beliefs you might have to correct.

Informal Sources

Word-of-mouth is as powerful as ever. In our survey, informal sources were cited more frequently than private sector sources. Informal sources include friends, family, co-workers, rumors, and social media. While social media can be generated by institutional and private sector sources, we’ve included it as an informal source because it is most often created by individuals.

Consider how your message might be spread by this informal network. Details don’t survive transmission, but a simple idea might. Can you create a version of your message that can be reduced to a meme? It could be an actual internet meme, a slogan, or a jingle. So long as it’s accurate and infectious.

Bad Actors

This category is comprised of scammers and sources that generate deliberate misinformation. You may not be able to counter them directly, but you can bring attention to known scams and lies. At the very least, be aware of the effect they have on borrowers’ knowledge and willingness to interact with you.

How Can You Help Borrowers Get Accurate Information?

Student Connections supports over 8 million borrowers on behalf of 550 campuses. In the full version of this report, Repayment is Coming: The State of Student Loan Borrowers in 2023,” we dig into the challenges facing borrowers, how they impact your school, and what actions you need to take right now.

If you’re looking for a partner to help connect and support your former students through repayment, contact Student Connections today.