New study finds traditional contact methods don't work for student loan borrowers

Updated: Jun 25, 2018

NCHER declares federal policy must adapt to shifts in technology adoption

As a new generation of cellphone-dependent students take out loans to finance their education, communication via landline phone calls and traditional mail will become less effective methods for reaching struggling borrowers, according to the National Council for Higher Education Resources’ (NCHER) survey of student loan borrowers.

According to the NCHER report, “increased use of cell phone calls, text messages and e-mails would be the best means of adapting current policy to meet changing borrower demographics and preferences.”

Highlights from the NCHER survey of student loan borrowers:

Cell phone ownership rises, while landline ownership declines

NCHER reported that 91 percent of student loan borrowers ages 18-24 had a cell phone. Only 12 percent also had a landline phone. Landline ownership is down among all age groups, but the decline is biggest among young adults.

Younger borrowers more open to contact

Younger borrowers are more willing to be contacted about important student loan information. More than half of 18-24 year-olds approved of being contacted when a payment is due and nearly half approved of being contacted when a payment is missed.

When presented with a specific communication scenario, such communication regarding student loan default or delinquency, younger borrowers prefer either a cell phone call or text message 45.8 percent of the time.

Banking goes digital

Student loan borrowers decreasingly visit brick-and-mortar banks and increasingly bank online. Overall, 43 percent of borrowers report making financial decisions on a computer or tablet, with cell phones and mobile devices ranking second at 26 percent. Younger respondents are 30 percent more likely to use cell phones as their primary method of banking.


Student loan borrowers need timely and accurate information in order to successfully manage their student loan debt. The results of the NCHER survey demonstrate that landline and traditional mail are no longer effective means for reaching borrowers. In order to effectively adapt to evolving communication preferences, policy must meet student borrowers where they are: on mobile devices and electronic platforms.


Between January 24 and 27, 2016, NCHER fielded an online poll using Google Consumer Surveys among current and former students. In total, 4,004 respondents completed the entire survey. 2,221 (55%) of respondents were college or university graduates with loans, 1,255 (31%) were current students with loans and 546 (14%) were former students with loans who did not graduate.

Download the entire online survey results

Recent Posts

See All