Date of Award

Spring 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership

Committee Director

Dennis Gregory

Committee Member

Shana Pribesh

Committee Member

Anita Freidmann


Student loan debt has had a tremendous impact on higher education over the past 45 years. Over that timeframe, federal student loan dollars have increased by more than 800%. This dissertation examines the perception of value that has been added to the lives of graduates by using student loans to finance their degree or graduate certificate. Literature on the subject has focused primarily on the rising costs associated with earning a college education, and the continuous increase in the average amount of student loan debt that graduates carry into their careers. A researcher-generated survey was administered to 6 years of completers from a mid-size public institution located in southeast Virginia in order to discover perceptions of the phenomenon. This research contributes to the literature in that it expands on the debt discussion by applying a behavioral economics perspective to the perception and decision-making processes involved with borrowing. The study also explores the changing public perception of higher education and how that perception may influence the future of higher education. It expands on the literature on the financial literacy of students involved with loans and offers suggestions for its improvement.


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