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How Should Colleges Present Student Loan Information?
Last registered on March 08, 2019


Trial Information
General Information
How Should Colleges Present Student Loan Information?
Initial registration date
March 04, 2019
Last updated
March 08, 2019 3:51 PM EST

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Primary Investigator
Vanderbilt University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign
Additional Trial Information
In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
This project will explore how college students make borrowing and educational investment decisions and how colleges can provide information about student loan options to best serve their students. Nationwide, community colleges vary substantially in how student loans are offered to students, a process often termed as “loan packaging.” Some schools include an explicit loan offer as part of their students’ financial aid package. Others provide students with a financial aid package that does not contain student loans. In both cases, students who meet federal requirements are able to borrow, but in previous research, we show that the presentation of loan offers in students’ financial aid award letters has significant effects on loan take-up. In this project, we will work with a large urban university system that currently does not package loans to conduct a similar experiment to determine whether loan packaging provides similar benefits to students.

External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Marx, Benjamin and Lesley Turner. 2019. "How Should Colleges Present Student Loan Information?." AEA RCT Registry. March 08. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.3963-1.0.
Former Citation
Marx, Benjamin and Lesley Turner. 2019. "How Should Colleges Present Student Loan Information?." AEA RCT Registry. March 08. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/3963/history/42792.
Experimental Details
This research project will consist of randomized controlled trials over the presentation of loan offers across schools. Eligibility for and requirements to borrow student loans will not be affected. Our experiment will only change the way that loans are displayed to students. The experiments will be carried out during the financial award process for the 2019-2020 school year, and students will be tracked for several years afterwards to determine whether the framing of loan offers affects academic and other outcomes, including in-school and post-college labor supply and earnings, use of student loans and other sources of debt, and financial stability.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Student loan take-up and amount borrowed, use of other sources of debt, postsecondary attainment, in-school labor supply and earnings, post-college labor supply and earnings, loan repayment and other measures of financial well-being.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The participating colleges will package student loans for half of their students (as is done at half of community colleges and nearly all four-year colleges). Students who are offered a loan will be randomly assigned to two equal sized groups which will receive either a small loan offer or large loan. Within each of the two participating colleges, students who wish to borrow must comply with the same requirements, including completing entrance counseling and indicating an interest in borrowing via an online system. Our experiments will only change the way that loans are displayed to students, and these other procedures will not change. The random assignment to each of the treatment arms or control group will be stratified by student characteristics including other college(s) applied to, outstanding debt, student level (freshman, etc.), new versus returning status, dependency, unmet need, and expected family contribution. This stratification will ensure similarity between the control and treatment groups and will allow us to test whether the treatments have different impacts across different types of students. The experiment will involve all applicants receiving financial aid packages in the 2019-2020 school year at the two participating colleges.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by a computer.
Randomization Unit
Student-level randomization.
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
35,000 financial aid applicants
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
17,500 control, 8750 small loan offer treatment group, 8750 large loan offer treatment group.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB Name
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Institutional Review Board
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number