Rising College Debt and the “Parent Plus” School Loan Program

Sandy Flores-Ruiz:

Baylor University, based in central Texas, is one of the many institutions that uses a federal loan program called Parent Plus. Among private schools with a minimum of $1 billion endowment, Baylor also had the lowest repayment rate for this particular type of loan. 

The Parent Plus program offers federal loans to parents and allows them to help pay for their children’s tuition. Before the introduction of this program, undergraduate students were the largest demographic taking out college loans requiring payment. Now, in the Parent Plus era, parents and graduate students take out the most loans. 

The fast-growing Parent Plus program does not have income limits or a cap on the amount of money parents can borrow, unlike other undergraduate loan programs. This makes Parent Plus appealing and accessible to parents, especially to those who want to send their children to the best ranking schools. They often hastily agree to take out these loans without realizing the magnitude and future impact of their debt. 

At Baylor, the Parent Plus loan program has allowed the university to shift its reputation from being a locally appreciated Baptist college to a nationally accredited and endorsed institution. The university has funneled its resources into building a new sports complex and expanding its existing research facilities to match those of the top schools in the nation.