The Debt Details

A recent Department of Education publication, and analysis by an outside firm, indicated that students who attended all types of colleges were having trouble paying back their student loans. Justin Snider over at the Hechinger Report looks closely at debt information for many American schools:

A few institutions did manage to have 100 percent repayment rates – the 4-States Okmulgee Academy of Cosmetology and Aladdin Beauty College #1 were among them — but more often than not these schools had to count on only one graduate to repay his or her loans. Large institutions tended to have a less impressive showing. The University of Phoenix had almost 350,000 students enter repayment in 2009, with nearly $5 billion in outstanding loans. Its estimated repayment rate? Forty-four percent.

U.S. News & World Report also provides interesting data on the debt-load of students in the Class of 2009. The distinction of being the [traditional] institution whose students graduated deepest in debt last year belongs to La Roche College in Pennsylvania, where 78 percent of students graduated with debt — to the tune of $69,494 on average. No other college comes close to La Roche in graduating students with such significant debt.

La Roche College, a 1700 student, Catholic-affiliated school in suburban Pittsburgh, only appears to cost about $21,000 a year. Yet somehow this reasonably low tuition results in huge debt loads.

The second school on the debt list, after La Rouche, is Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Oral Roberts (motto: Educating the whole person) is the largest fundamentalist college in America. Its students graduate the school carrying an average $49,007 worth of debt.

One wonders where all of that money goes.

Repayment rates and average student debt-loads for all 8,400 institutions in the United States can be found here.

UPDATE: Kenneth Service, vice president for institutional relations at La Roche College, said that “the debt figure for La Roche College… was based on an error made by someone here at the college in responding to U.S. News & World Report.” According to Service, while it’s true that 78 percent of La Roche students graduate with debt, “the average cumulative total [debt burden] upon graduation is $37,213.00.”

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer