Student Loan Choice Overload

35 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2019 Last revised: 14 Oct 2021

See all articles by Benjamin Marx

Benjamin Marx

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Lesley Turner

University of Maryland

Date Written: May 2019


What influences college student borrowing? In a field experiment with a large community college, we send emails about federal student loans to students who have received information about financial aid but have not made a borrowing decision. A treatment reminding students that they need not borrow the maximum amount of available loan aid does not affect borrowing. Treatments referencing amounts borrowed by recent graduates shift students from borrowing the maximum amount to not borrowing. Consistent with the hypothesis that students experience choice overload when observing multiple dollar amounts, the response is largest among low-performing students and arises from inaction.

Suggested Citation

Marx, Benjamin and Turner, Lesley, Student Loan Choice Overload (May 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w25905, Available at SSRN:

Benjamin Marx (Contact Author)

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ( email )

Lesley Turner

University of Maryland ( email )

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