Average student debt declines slightly at UI, ISU, UNI

But debt rose slightly for Iowa resident students

Average student debt upon graduation decreased slightly last year at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa, according to a report released Thursday.

But in looking at only Iowa resident students, average debt at graduation rose at ISU and the UI from 2009-10 to 2010-11, according to the report. The average need-based indebtedness for Iowa resident graduates also increased at ISU and the UI last year.

The most recent student debt numbers are in the annual financial aid report, to be discussed next week by the state Board of Regents.

Average student debt load at graduation in 2011 was $25,446 at the UI, down from $25,515 in 2010. At ISU, it was $29,324 in 2011, down from $29,475 in 2010. At UNI, it was $25,523 in 2011, compared to $25,735 in 2010. Those numbers are for all students graduating with debt.

But in looking just at Iowa resident students, the average debt at the UI was $24,652 in 2011, up from $24,453 in 2010. At ISU, it was $29,035 in 2011, up from $28,804 in 2010. Debt for Iowa resident students declined slightly at UNI in 2011, to $25,435 compared to $25,916 in 2010.

Numerous factors impact student debt averages, so it’s hard to pinpoint one reason for increases, Mark Warner, UI financial aid director, said. The economic downturn that started in 2008 likely impacted for several years how much students were borrowing for college, a factor that continues to play out in this report, he said. The UI also has increased the grant and scholarship money available, which should theoretically decrease the need for student loans, Warner said.

“And I’d like to think all the national media about student debt and comparison to foreclosures and what not, that that’s opened up some eyes to say ‘let’s think three times before we go the borrowing route,’” Warner said. “There’s just a lot of variables that impact these things.”

Nationally, 44 percent of seniors in 2009-10 graduated without debt from public four-year institutions. In 2011, the numbers of students without debt at Iowa’s public universities were all lower than that.

The number of students graduating without debt was 39 percent at the UI in 2011, and Iowa residents graduating without debt was 33 percent at the UI. At ISU, 30.4 percent of all students graduated without debt in 2011, and of Iowa residents, 25.2 percent graduated without debt. At UNI, 22.3 percent of all students graduated without debt in 2011, and of Iowa residents, 22.9 percent graduated without debt in 2011.

The national average indebtedness for those graduating with debt from public four-year universities was $22,000 in 2009-10. The national average need-based indebtedness for those graduating with debt from public institutions was $11,653 in 2007-08.

In looking at need-based indebtedness at Iowa’s three regent universities, it was much lower than overall student debt averages. Need-based indebtedness in 2011 was $11,823 at the UI, $13,615 at ISU and $12,983 at UNI.

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