Publication Date



Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis


The number of individuals with student loan debt who do not earn their degrees is on the rise; nevertheless, there is little research that demonstrates the financial conditions and circumstances of these individuals. We address this knowledge gap by comparing the financial outcomes of student debt-holders who started college but did not earn a degree—those with non-degreed debt (NDD)—with similar individuals who did not attend college and did not take on student debt. We find that individuals with NDD had greater odds of experiencing material and healthcare hardships, as well as financial difficulties. Individuals with NDD also had greater financial anxiety and lower levels of financial well-being. Despite these challenges, individuals with NDD were more optimistic than high school graduates concerning future college enrollment and earnings. We discuss the implications of these findings with regards to financial aid policies, debt repayment policies, and college retention and re-enrollment efforts.

Document Type

Report or White Paper





Student Debt, College Completion, Hardships, and Financial Well-Being