SSWR Doctoral Student Spotlight

The SSWR Doctoral Student Members Task Force is launching a new series featuring research conducted by doctoral students. The series is intended to bring awareness and attention to the research being done by social work doctoral students, as well as important issues in the field. One spotlight piece will be featured each week on the SSWR Doctoral Student Member Blog & Facebook Page during the spring 2019 semester. 

Exploring the Interaction of Student Loan Debt and Longevity Planning within the Context of the Family

Julie Miller

Julie Miller

Student Researcher: Julie Miller

About the Researcher: Julie Miller, MSW, is a fourth year doctoral candidate at Boston College and a Research Associate at the MIT AgeLab. She earned her MSW from UC Berkeley and her Bachelors of Science from Northeastern University.

Description of the Study: Julie's doctoral dissertation explores how student loans are experienced by individuals and within families. Her work focuses on ways in which borrowers of different ages perceive and prioritize retirement and longevity-planning in light of student loans and loan debt and how families navigate student loan accrual and repayment.

Inspiration for the Study: As people live longer lives, economic security across the life course is especially vital. The burden of student loans may drive some individuals and families further down the socioeconomic ladder rather than up.

Methodological Approach: My dissertation uses qualitative and quantitative data collected at the MIT AgeLab through a concurrent triangulation mixed methods study design.

Findings: Preliminary results suggest that, particularly among women, planning for future financial security for oneself and/or family members may be less achievable with the presence of student loan debt. In addition, student loan repayment can influence family dynamics, including willingness and ability to provide intergenerational transfers to aging parents and dependent children.

Anticipated Implications: My dissertation highlights gaps in knowledge that policymakers, practitioners, and social work scholars can begin to address with current and potential student loan borrowers.

Challenges Encountered: I collected my own data for my dissertation, so some challenges stemmed from developing survey and focus group instruments- learning how to ask the right questions and testing and re-testing. Other challenges arose when integrating mixed methods and wanting to do all of my data justice.

Questions or comments for Julie? Email her at: