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Massachusetts Has 12th Highest Student Loan Debt in Country

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

 

How do states compare for student loan debt? A recent report checks out the facts and figures.

The average Massachusetts graduate who borrowed to get a bachelor's degree in the class of 2012 has a student loan debt of $28,460, according to a recent report by the Institute for College Access and Success -- which ranks Massachusetts #12 for the highest student loan debt average in the country.

The distinction for Massachusetts is a jump in two spots from last year, having previously been at the #14 position when the state average was $27,181. For 2012, the proportion of Massachusetts students with student debt was 66%.

See How Worcester College and Universities Ranked for Student Debt HERE

Iris Godes with Quinsigamond Community College, who was past Chair of the Massachusetts Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, said that when the administrators get together, they talk about loan debt -- but "not exhaustively."

The recent report showed nationally, the average debt per borrower was $29,400 in total for a four year institution.  

"We're concerned more about issues around access," said Godes. "How can we communicate better with students and families about the value of education? Our task is really "the education of education."

Godes noted that reaching low-income families, as well as those new to the United States, was a priority.

"Those who are new to the country might not understand how the system works," said Godes. "They might hear "public", and think they don't have to pay. They might be coming from countries that might not charge for a public education."

Godes spoke to public versus private colleges and universities -- and that New England, and Massachusetts in particular, was in contrast to the rest of the country.

"I think one thing about Massachusetts that makes us unique -- we have a huge number of colleges and universities, the majority of which are private. As a state, our cost of education is much higher," said Godes. Speaking to the data released on average debt, Godes said, "If you compare us to a Kansas, where the majority of a student might go primarily to public higher education institutions , it's apples to oranges."

See how Massachusetts Compared to the Rest of New England below.

Choices, Informed Decisions

Martha Savery with the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority talked with GoLocal about its role as a resource in the college financing process.

"At MEFA we know that the more information a student and family gathers to assist with the college search process, the better off they will be. There are many variables that students and families weigh when building their college list," said Savery.  "The consideration of potential student loan debt upon graduation is one variable that many families are reviewing when thinking about college affordability and their college options. "

Godes said that one of the major factors in college affordability wasn't necessarily the student debt issues, but rather what families -- and students -- are willing to sacrifice for tuition.

"Sometimes there's a reality shock," said Ghodes. "That $4,000 vacation you might usually take? You don't need to be taking that if you're looking at ways to afford college. I start in on young parents after day care is over and done -- that money you paid for day care is now not suddenly "available" when your child enters school. I tell the parents to keep tucking that money away into a college fund. It should be treated as unavailable."

Similarly, Godes said that colleges needed to be honest with families if it looked like affording their school might just be out of reach, even with aid and grants.

"The question that colleges wrestle with is how to let families know that it might not be a wise decision to incur the debt needed to attend their institution," aide Godes. "These students might come for a semester, or a year and have to leave -- which is reason for having those hard conversations. Remember when you're looking at the freshman year cost, you need to multiply that by four years."

Federal Government to Ramp Up Rankings?

In August, President Obama unveiled a "plan to make college more affordable" -- which would include, according to the White House, the ability to "measure college performance through a new ratings system so students and families have the information to select schools that provide the best value."

"Right now, some colleges escape accountability by opting not to report their graduates' debt, while those who do report are stuck on an unequal playing field,” said Matthew Reed, the student debb report’s primary author. “Students, researchers, and policymakers need and deserve better and more complete information," which the institute wrote is an issue is especially crucial as President Obama has proposed developing ratings before the 2015 school year aimed at helping consumers compare colleges' value and encouraging institutions to improve."

GoLocal Mindsetter and college admissions advisor Cristiana Quinn said that in the meantime, students and families should utilize current tools available.

"In November of 2011, the federal government mandated that every college in the U.S. post a net price calculator on their website that allows families to put in their tax information and receive an estimate of aid, based on that institutions policies and formulas. Perhaps, the federal government needs to mandate that all colleges release figures on student debt in order to encourage improvement and competition among institutions of higher education," said Quinn. 

"However, those numbers will be broad in scope. I still encourage families to use net price calculators and financial aid offices on each campus as a more specific tool to determine their likely debt," said Quinn. 

 

Related Slideshow: New England States with the Highest Student Debt

A new report released by the Institute for College Access & Success' Project on Student Debt found that the average debt load for the class of 2012 was $29,400 -- up more than 10% from the previous year. Check out the slides below to see where New England ranks in terms of average student debt.

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# Connecticut

Average Student Debt: $27,816

Percent of Graduates with Debt: 61%

Note: All data is based on four-year or above institutions for students graduating in the 2011-2012 academic year.

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#5 Vermont

Average Student Debt: $28,299

Percent of Graduates with Debt: 63%

Note: All data is based on four-year or above institutions for students graduating in the 2011-2012 academic year.

Prev Next

#4 Massachusetts

Average Student Debt: $28,460

Percent of Graduates with Debt: 66%

Note: All data is based on four-year or above institutions for students graduating in the 2011-2012 academic year.

Prev Next

#3 Maine

Average Student Debt: $29,352

Percent of Graduates with Debt: 67%

Note: All data is based on four-year or above institutions for students graduating in the 2011-2012 academic year.

Prev Next

#2 Rhode Island

Average Student Debt: $31,156

Percent of Graduates with Debt: 69%

Note: All data is based on four-year or above institutions for students graduating in the 2011-2012 academic year.

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#1 New Hampshire

Average Student Debt: $32,698

Percent of Graduates with Debt: 74%

Note: All data is based on four-year or above institutions for students graduating in the 2011-2012 academic year.

 
 

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