UPDATE: UW students, on average, graduate with $27,000 in student loan debtThe average student loan debt at graduation from Wisconsin's public campuses has increased dramatically over the past 30 years along with tuition rates that have consistently outpaced inflation, University of Wisconsin System officials say.
By: Associated Press report, Associated Press
MADISON — The average student loan debt at graduation from Wisconsin's public campuses has increased dramatically over the past 30 years along with tuition rates that have consistently outpaced inflation, University of Wisconsin System officials say.
The average student who borrowed to earn a bachelor's degree last year finished school with $27,000 in student loan debt, compared to about $5,000 in debt for their equivalents 30 years ago, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Adjusting for inflation, $5,000 in 1982 would amount to nearly $12,000 today, meaning the student debt burden more than doubled over that time.
Student debt has grown because tuitions have risen, state aid is down and parents are struggling to contribute to the bills, Mark Nook, the UW System's senior vice president of academic affairs, told the UW Board of Regents on Thursday.
He also noted that more students attending Wisconsin public universities now are taking out loans to help pay for college, 71 percent now compared to 50 percent in 1992.
Nook said the increased debt isn't necessarily because students are taking longer to finish a college degree. Graduates who have $50,000 or more debt still are generally finishing their degrees within five years, he said.
He acknowledged that some students might be borrowing more than they need so they can support a higher standard of living.
“Some of our students are living a little better than they should,” Nook said. “But some of it's also occurring because parents can't help with their contribution.”
UW officials noted that more parents have lost jobs and seen their credit ratings and home equity plummet, so they're less able to help out their children financially.
The greatest burden falls on students from moderate-income families, those with a family income of about $67,000, because they receive less financial aid and have to take on greater debt. Federal aid formulas don't require low-income families to contribute toward their children's educations.
Susan Fischer, UW-Madison's director of financial aid, said that Harvard University had become more affordable than California state universities.
“Soon, they'll be cheaper than us, too,” she said.
Some have called for the federal government to increase available student aid, although when that happens, Fischer said, “families tend to borrow more.”
She noted that out-of-state students, who pay higher tuition, get out faster.
“I think their parents have a foot on their backside,” she said.
The debt loads were highest among borrowers at UW-Milwaukee, at $29,010. The school with the highest percentage of Wisconsin residents who graduated with loan debt was UW-Superior (87 percent), and the lowest was at UW-Madison (59 percent).