Student debt trends down

On average, Yale seniors preparing for graduation in May face less student debt than their predecessors a decade ago.

According to Director of Student Financial Services Caesar Storlazzi, student debt for the class of 2014 will likely be similar to that of the classes of 2013 and 2012. In 2013, 15 percent of Yale seniors graduated with debt, and the average borrower owed $13,009, Storlazzi said. The average indebtedness was slightly higher than the previous year, when 17 percent of the class of 2012 graduated with an average debt of $12,347 per borrower, according to the Project on Student Debt, an annual report compiled by the nonprofit The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS). Though administrators interviewed said these numbers fluctuate from year to year, all administrators and financial aid experts interviewed said Yale is one of the few schools where recent students are graduating with less debt than their predecessors a decade ago.

“Across the country, nearly every school is seeing and accepting rising levels of debt and more students borrowing for their studies,” said Matthew Reed, program director at TICAS.

He cited Yale’s numbers for the class of 2004 — the earliest numbers considered by the Project on Student Debt — as evidence that the University is doing a better job of minimizing student debt. While 39 percent of the students from Yale’s class of 2004 borrowed money to pay tuition, only 15 percent of students from the class of 2013 did so.

Even the debt that each borrower assumed in 2004 was larger — the average borrower from that class took on $16,911 in loans.

Mark Kantrowitz, vice president of Edvisors Network, a financial aid and higher education consulting firm, said Yale’s downward trend can be attributed to the University prioritizing a strong financial aid program

Yale’s large endowment has allowed the University to spend immense resources to subsidize the education of its students, Kantrowitz said. He added that most universities in America do not have the resources to sustain a quality academic program and allocate the resources necessary for helping more students pay for college.

Storlazzi echoed Kantrowitz’s statement, making a comparison between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Yale.

“RPI’s academic costs and quality of education is just as good as Yale’s but [students] need to borrow very heavily because they just don’t have the financial backing that Yale has,” he said.

Tuition hikes across universities have been the primary factor driving the rise in student debt, Kantrowitz said. Reed agreed, adding that as the value of a college degree rises, more students from low-income communities are entering college with the help of loans. He said it is especially impressive that Yale’s numbers have trended downwards even as the Yale student body has become more diverse.

Storlazzi said his office conducts internal reviews and calculates the University’s student debt numbers and those of its competitors, adding that the estimates produced by the Project on Student Debt are largely correct. Reed said TICAS was still in the process of awaiting the publishing of the figures for the class of 2013.

Among the Ivy League, Yale’s figures for the class of 2012 were the second lowest, narrowly edging out Harvard which reported that a quarter of its 2012 graduates took out an average debt of $13,098. Still, Princeton reported that 24 percent of its graduates from the class of 2012 held only $5,096 in loans, a substantially lower number than any of its counterparts.

“Frankly we have a slight mistrust of some of the numbers we see at Princeton,” Storlazzi said. “We find it hard to believe their numbers really are that low.”

Reed said it was impossible for TICAS to verify numbers because all submissions are voluntary. He added that only about half the colleges and universities submit these statistics for publication.

Storlazzi said many students who graduate from Yale with debt choose to take out loans rather than work campus jobs to pay off their self-help and summer contributions. He added that some students take out loans because they believe they can pay back their loans once they have well-paying full-time jobs as graduates.

Still, he said the office has made strides in reducing the long-term indebtedness of Yale students by lowering the self-help numbers for students on financial aid. Around 10 years ago, Storlazzi said the University’s self-help numbers for juniors or seniors were about 8,500 dollars.

“The numbers were so high that even if you had a campus job, you’d still have to take out a loan or maybe even two loans,” he said.

Next year’s freshmen will need to contribute $2,850 to their education, while upperclassmen will need to contribute $3,350.

This year marked the second consecutive year that the cost of attending Yale rose by four percent to $59,800 from $57,500.

Comments