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Median Student Loan Debt for BA Degree Now $17,700

Median Student Loan Debt for BA Degree Now $17,700

Daily Camera via Yellowbrix

August 24, 2009

BOULDER, Colo. — Ryan Nowakowski — a University of Colorado graduate with an aerospace engineering degree — juggled jobs, sometimes working 40 hours while taking a full load of classes.

That way, his paychecks helped cushion his debt load, paying for rent and his monthly $400 grocery bills. (“I’m 6’6 and eat like it’s nobody’s business,” Nowakowski admits). But he used loans to cover tuition and fees, graduating in May with $25,000 in student-loan debt.

A new report from the College Board says a growing share of bachelor’s degree recipients are graduating with student-loan debt. Sixty-six percent of graduates from public, four-year colleges accumulated some debt, compared to 62 percent in 2003-04.

The median level of debt for those with bachelor’s degrees who borrowed money increased from $16,990 in 2003-04 to $17,700 in 2007-08.

At CU, about 50 percent of in-state students had loan debt, and about 25 percent of out-of-state students had some loan debt. That has remained stable over the past five years. Their average debt loads were $17,000 for in-state students who borrowed, and $18,000 for out-of-state borrowers.

Nowakowski, who paid in-state tuition, is beginning to pay back his loans now that he has a job related to his degree — as a collection planning test engineer at DigitalGlobe in Longmont

“It was worth it,” he said. “I have a college degree in a solid field.”

The College Board gleaned information from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Postsecondary Student Aid Study for its August report on student loans.

“Many students borrow at some point in their college careers, but not every year,” said Sandy Baum, senior policy analyst at the College Board. “Borrowing moderately is a responsible way to pay for college, but students should consider how much they can expect to earn when they graduate and whether they will be able to afford the required monthly payments.”

Nationally, about 10 percent of all bachelor’s degree recipients in 2007-08 borrowed $40,000 or more and the proportions were much higher at private and for-profit institutions.

Ofelia Morales, associate director of financial aid at CU, said that in the past couple of years there has been an increase in the amount that students can borrow.

More students, she said, are taking advantage of the higher caps for federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans since they have lower interest rates than private loans.

“We want to make sure they get the most favorable loans,” Morales said.

Annual loan limits are $5,500 for freshmen; $6,500 for sophomores; and $7,500 for juniors and seniors.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or

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