Student Debt

A Reference Handbook

by William Elliott III and Melinda K. Lewis


As of 2013, U.S. student loan balances exceed $1.2 trillion. Why does the United States have the biggest amount of student debt in the world?

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Cover image for Student Debt

January 2017


Pages 303
Volumes 1
Size 6x9
Topics Current Events and Issues/Education

Offering answers to essential questions about student debt and many connected issues, this book examines student debt in the United States at every stage of the process—from the banks that issue the loans to the colleges and universities that collect the payments.

Student lending in the United States is one of the most controversial issues in contemporary American discourse. Are these loans the only option for Americans who want to attend college and university in order to attain the best careers and have a productive, enjoyable life? Should the predatory lending practices of for-profit colleges and universities be stopped? How can limits be imposed on student lending amounts without preventing students from getting the education they need to succeed?

The book explains why so many students are borrowing large amounts of money to attend college; considers whether the cost of higher education is simply too high, and if there should be a cap on how much money students can borrow; explains what is contributing to the rising rate of borrowers defaulting on their loans; and predicts whether the so-called student loan bubble is in danger of popping. The Data and Documents chapter analyzes data gathered from discussions about student debt. This information enables readers to better understand who is borrowing student loans, what the money from the student loans is going toward, what individuals have the authority to decide who qualifies for these loans, and what is being done to curb wasteful student spending.


  • Provides a thorough and accessible treatment of student loans that fills a large gap in the reference literature
  • Presents arguments both for and against student lending, making this an excellent resource for students writing persuasive essays on either side of the topic
  • Supplies highly useful, easy-to-understand information for students as well as general readers who want to learn more about student loans and grasp the key issues of this important socioeconomic issue
Series Description

Contemporary World Issues

This award-winning series offers comprehensive, one-volume reference handbooks on important topics related to health, education, the environment, and social and ethical issues.

24-hour cable news. Millions of Internet sites. Information overload. How can we sort through the information? Assess the analyses? Trust the sources?

A world of questions demands a library of answers. Contemporary World Issues covers the controversial topics that students, readers, and citizens want to read about, write about, and know more about.


  • Subject coverage spans six main categories:
  • Criminal Justice
  • Environment
  • Gender and Ethnicity
  • Politics, Law, and Government
  • Science, Technology, and Medicine
  • Society
  • Each volume offers a rich array of resources:
  • A background and history essay that provides essential context and grounding for further study
  • A balanced summary of ongoing controversies and proposed solutions that show numerous paths for further research on pressing, contemporary questions
  • A forum of authoritative perspective essays by experts, offering a broad spectrum of arguments on the issues
  • Carefully selected annotated documents, tables, and graphs that supports statistical literacy and investigation of primary sources
  • A chronology of events, legislation, and movements that place events in sequence and draw connections between them
  • Annotated lists of print, Web, and multimedia resources that power the next steps for in-depth research
  • Profiles of key players and organizations
  • A glossary of key terms
Author Info

William Elliott III is associate professor at the University of Kansas (KU) and founder of the Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion (AEDI) at the School of Social Welfare at KU. He also serves as faculty director of asset building for the Center for Social Development and senior research fellow for New America Foundation's Asset Building Program. Elliott is a member of the advisory board for the initiative to develop a Human Needs Index at the Center on Philanthropy, Indiana University and a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Board of Boston. A leading researcher in the field of children's savings and college matriculation and success, he has written extensively on the relationship between assets and children's educational outcomes. Numerous news and media outlets such as NPR, National Journal, U.S. News & World Report, Washington Monthly, and The Washington Post have featured his work.

Melinda K. Lewis is assistant director at the Center for Assets, Education, and Inclusion (AEDI) and associate professor of practice at the School of Social Welfare at the University of Kansas. Her work with AEDI includes conducting research and translating findings into policy changes, specifically around the role of assets in addressing educational inequities and improving upward mobility. Lewis is coauthor of The Real College Debt Crisis: How Student Borrowing Threatens Financial Well-Being and Erodes the American Dream as well as of articles for academic journals, including an article discussing the research and policy implications of the effect of student debt on financial well-being and numerous research reports for AEDI. She frequently presents on student debt, CSAs, and educational inequity. Prior to her current roles at the University of Kansas, Lewis worked as a nonprofit policy advocate, grassroots organizer, and community researcher. Lewis holds a bachelor's degree in social work from University of Kansas and a master's degree in social work from Washington University.



"This work is suitable for most academic and public libraries."Booklist

"This reference work can be read as an analysis on the causes of today's crisis. It is also a useful compendium for researchers and students. Summing Up: Recommended. All readers."Choice

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