Higher education

Survey at Iowa State Fair finds many overestimate student loan debt

Actual cost average 30 percent lower for state schools

Beardshear Hall on the Iowa State University campus in Ames on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Beardshear Hall on the Iowa State University campus in Ames on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Families and students planning for a college education in Iowa are overestimating how much a college degree will impact their finances.

Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed at this year’s Iowa State Fair expect student debt from earning a college degree will top $35,000. That’s 30 percent higher than the average student debt for Iowa public university graduates, which is just over $27,000.

The $35,000 projection is 10 percent higher than the $31,806 average debt for graduates of private, not-for-profit colleges and universities in Iowa. The number also is two and a half times the average debt for graduates of Iowa’s community colleges, or just more than $14,000.

The survey was commissioned by Iowa College Aid, the state agency administering state grants and scholarships for students continuing their education after high school as well as helping families prepare, plan and pay for college. Iowa College Aid looked to gauge the public’s ideas on student loan debt and help spotlight areas where perception and reality differ.

“We know that more than half of Iowans who never enroll in postsecondary education cite cost as the reason,” said Karen Misjak, Iowa College Aid executive director, in a news release. “That means an unrealistic expectation of student loan debt could hinder Iowa’s efforts to increase the number of residents who pursue higher education.”


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