Colleges and Student Debts/Repayments ☆

| August 23, 2010

With a new school year set to commence in the coming weeks, US News & World Report recently released its annual list of America’s best colleges with the “usual suspects” Harvard, Yale and Princeton leading the way. When Forbes magazine reared its head into the ranking business in 2008, it took into “account the average amount of debt that students graduate with, as well as the rate at which students in a given institution default on their loan.” This year, student loans and repayment of those loans, have come under a larger microscope since Congress started inquiring into the practices of for-profit universities, where most graduates leave with higher than normal debts and often default on their loans.

The US Department of Education also recently published its own findings on four-year loan-repayment and average debt-load for students at over 8,400 institutions of higher education. According to the findings, a few colleges, such as 4-States Okmulgee Academy of Cosmetology in Oklahoma, managed to have perfect student repayment rates though such schools only had to rely on one or a few graduates to repay their entire loan. Other large institutions, such as the University of Phoenix, which had 350,000 students enter repayment in 2009, fared considerably less than the aforementioned in terms of students actually paying off their debts.

Graduates from La Roche College in Pennsylvania left school with the largest debts.  78% of graduates at La Roche left with an average debt of $69,494. Right behind La Roche is Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma, where graduates left with an average of $49,007 in debt though it is also worth noting 55% of its graduates left with no debt.  On the flip side, graduates from top institutions such as Princeton University tend to leave school with little or no debt. Only 22% percent of Princeton’s graduates leave the school with debt and that debt was an average of about $5,667. Two major reasons account for such a low number at such institutions. First, colleges such as Princeton provide students with generous financial aid packages made up mostly from grants. Secondly, students at such colleges tend to be very affluent and thus can afford their education with little or no financial aid.

So in researching and ultimately deciding which colleges to apply, it is safe to suggest the class of 2015 will be better served looking beyond the flashy top 50 lists of “best colleges” and place some emphasis on the schools where they will leave with less debt, especially in our troubled economy.