The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) is the U.S. Department of Education’s central database for student aid. It receives data from schools, agencies that guarantee loans, the Direct Loan program, the Pell Grant program, and other U.S. Department of Education programs. NSLDS provides a centralized, integrated view of Title IV loans and Pell Grants that are tracked through their entire cycle, from aid approval through closure. The NSLDS records indicate when each federal loan is disbursed to the student, at what academic level (e.g., first-year undergraduate, first-year graduate), the amount of the loan disbursed, the time period covered, and the history of the loan. The history part tracks each change in the status of the loan, such as when it is consolidated, deferred, defaulted, in repayment, or paid off, and the date of each change. The last entry of a loan in the NSLDS records shows the most recent outstanding balance of the loan. Thus, the September 2003 NSLDS dataset, which was used to add information to B&B:93/03 file, provides detailed information about the repayment history of each loan, including debt status and amount still outstanding at that time.
Although NSLDS contains information on all federal loans, this study examines only Stafford loans, the most commonly used federal loans.1 Also excluded are loans covering periods ending before January 1985 on the grounds that they were most likely irrelevant to the attainment of the bachelor’s degree earned in the 199293 academic year.