New data on student debt

TICAS logoHow much do students owe in college loans?  New data has just appeared from the Institute for College Access & Success (ICAS or TICAS) , and their report is essential, if unsurprising, reading for anyone interested in American post-secondary education.

Some details:

Debt continues to be widespread: “about seven in 10 (68%) college seniors who graduated from public and private nonprofit colleges in 2015 had student loan debt, a similar share as in 2014.”

The average amount of debt passed a milestone: “These borrowers owed an average of $30,100, up four percent from the 2014 average of $28,950.”  Yes!  We cracked 30K! USA USA USA

Defaults are still happening: “[a] record high 8.1 million federal student loan borrowers are mired in default”.  That’s about 2.5% of the entire population of the United States.

Debt varies strongly by state:

Statewide average debt levels for the Class of 2015 range from $18,850 to $36,100, and many of the same states appear at the high and low ends of the spectrum as in previous years. The share of graduates with debt ranges from 41 percent to 76 percent.

For example, compare the highest and lowest debt-holding state populations:

Highest and lowest debt-holding state populations

I’m not sure how this plays out according to red-blue state models.

For-profits are worse than publics and non-for-profit privates, but TICAS admits their for-profit data is weak, since those schools rarely shared such data.  Here’s the best they can find:

The most recent nationally representative data are for 2012 graduates, and they show that the vast majority from for-profit fouryear colleges (88%) took out student loans. These students graduated with an average of $39,950 in debt—43 percent more than 2012 graduates from other types of four-year colleges.

They’ve broken this out by individual states, too.  Some rich stuff therein.

So what’s not surprising?  This is more of the same, just ratcheted up a little worse.  Debt is widely held and rising.  Data isn’t that great, since no sector of higher ed is especially enthusiastic about sharing the results of financialization.

Seven years after the financial meltdown slammed into higher ed and shocked the nation into discussions about (among other things) college and university financing, nearly a decade after some ferment of reform and experimentation and “innovation”, we’ve gotten…


In other words, for American higher education institutions, for American public policy makers, for voters and politicians, for just about everyone except students, this is fine.


(thanks to Todd Bryant)

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