Paper Type

Doctoral Dissertation


College of Education and Human Services

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Leadership, School Counseling & Sports Management

First Advisor

Dr. Luke Cornelius

Second Advisor

Dr. Jeffrey Cornett

Third Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Gregg

Fourth Advisor

Dr. John P. McDonough


Within the last 30 years, the policy considerations regarding student loan debt and higher education have become a series of strong opinions, heated debate, and partisan politics. Key stakeholders including the United States Government, both for-profit and traditional higher- educations institutions, financial organizations, special interest groups, and students all have interests. More so, all branches of Government, the Legislative, Judicial, and Executive, are areas where policy is both born and challenged. Some are aligned, and some are competing such that crafting sound policy regarding the lending and management of student loan debt has created a difficult situation that may well lead to disastrous consequences.

Currently the outstanding student loan debt is at $1.56 trillion dollars and rising (Friedman, 2020). Next to outstanding mortgage debt, student loan debt is the next highest debt in the United States (Friedman, 2017). Comparisons in student debt have been made to the “housing bubble” of 2008, and the repercussions may be as equally devastating, if not worse, should default rates increase. From the Federal government’s perspective, balancing diversity and access to higher education with the risks of increased and unregulated student lending are key issues. From the students’ perspective, how can affected students and graduates address unfair lending practices and hold subpar higher-education institutions accountable? Legal remedies, including the Borrower Defense Rule and the statutory provisions of the bankruptcy statutes may be available to students and graduates to challenge student loan forgiveness and subpar higher-education institutions, but these are complex legal remedies. More so, changes in bankruptcy law have made this much more difficult (Dobson, 2019; Iluiano, 2012; Grant 2011).

All of these issues affect society at large. Should the student-loan bubble burst, the effects on the economy may be tantamount to the Great Recession. According to the Federal Reserve, the Great Recession is known as a two-year economic downturn from 2007 to 2009 (Rich, 2013). It marked the longest recession since World War II, resulting in unemployment peaking at 10 percent (Rich, 2013). Notably, this played a part in triggering a housing crisis where 9.3 million homeowners lost their homes between 2006 and 2014 (Kusisto, 2015). The steady increase in student loan debt is remarkably similar to the outstanding debt in the housing bubble.

This dissertation will analyze student loan debt while specifically focusing on the legal ramifications of the Borrower Default Rule and student loan debt defenses. These increasingly litigated issues provide a broad picture of evolving policy in higher education and will provide a means to highlight current issues and trends related to the policy considerations being debated amongst students, educators, and law makers.