As lawmakers work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA), a central issue has been college affordability, and specifically how to address growing student loan debt. A new report from LendEDU took a different approach to examining debt, looking at how borrowing has changed among different types of colleges, including women’s colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and at the state and institutional level.
The report, published Tuesday, uses data from the annual Peterson’s financial aid survey to examine student debt over 10 years from 2007 to 2017. The report examines the median and average differences in measures like the percent of graduates with debt, the monetary difference in debt per borrower, and the average difference in debt per borrower.
Overall, the average percent of graduates with debt increased by 1.2% between 2007 and 2017. The median percent difference did not change. Among private, public, HBCUs, and women’s colleges, the average percent of graduates with debt decreased by 1%, increased by 4.8%, 11.4% respectively, and decreased by 0.6%. According to Mike Brown, a research analyst at LendEDU and author of the report, the “single biggest takeaway” in the report was seeing “how the student loan debt situation at HBCUs has grown much worse” over the course of 10 years than when compared to overall changes.
The median average debt per borrower at HBCUs has risen by $11,512 over 10 years, he noted, while on an overall level, it has risen by $9,047. The average percent difference in average debt per borrower increased by 58.4% overall, and by 105.3% at HBCUs. It increased by 57.2% at private institutions, by 60.2% at public institutions, and by 59.1% at women’s colleges.
Brown said that “perhaps African-American students have been forced to become more dependent on student loan debt when it comes to funding an education.”
“As the price of a bachelor's degree continues to skyrocket, taking on more student loan debt has become almost necessary for most young Americans if they wish to attend a higher education institution and stay competitive in the job market after graduating,” he said.
The data LendEDU collected could be useful in the HEA reauthorization process, Brown said, particularly as lawmakers zero in on college accountability. Looking at student loan data from the national, institutional, and state levels, in addition to looking at borrower demographics can be advantageous, he said.
The LendEDU report, for example, showed that the University of the Incarnate Word, a private institution, managed to decrease the average debt per borrower by nearly 80% between 2007 and 2017, from $30,613 to $6,271. The Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, a public HBCU institution, lowered the average debt per borrower by about 75%, from $29,742 to $7,454.
Likewise, the report found that the average debt per borrower had increased by more than 40% in more than half of all states, jumping by more than 100% in New Mexico. The monetary difference in average debt per borrower increased by more than $8,000 in half of all states, climbing by nearly $17,000 in Delaware over the course of 10 years.
“Going back to the reworking of HEA, we can really see how individual institutions are performing when it comes to managing student loan debt on their campuses, as opposed to looking at a nationwide sample across all colleges and universities,” Brown said. “In that sense, the data in the way we presented it really allows for a researcher to breakdown student loan debt at an extremely micro-level (school-by-school), rather than just looking at overall statistics, that may disproportionately favor one thing over another for whatever reason.”
Publication Date: 5/1/2019