Although a recent report has pegged Connecticut as the state with the sixth most student debt for U.S. college graduates, Yale’s student debt levels stand significantly below the national average.
The report, released last Thursday by the Project on Student Debt at the Institute for College Access & Success, found that 64 percent of students who graduated in 2013 from a school in Connecticut had taken out loans. The average debt for those borrowers was $30,191 — roughly $2,000 above the national average. Both Quinnipiac University and the University of Hartford placed within the top 20 U.S. schools with the most student debt, but Yale found itself on the lower end of student debt levels.
“Yale has intentionally kept self-help levels low, so that students could work on campus and not have to borrow,” Yale Financial Aid Director Caesar Storlazzi said.
The report was based on voluntary surveys sent out to colleges across the nation and included data from 1,051 colleges that answered questions about overall debt and that graduated at least 100 bachelor’s degrees.
The average student debt for the 15 percent of Yale 2013 graduates who borrowed was $13,009, significantly lower than both the state and the national average. Storlazzi explained that the University prioritizes keeping student debt at Yale College low by structuring financial aid packages with low self-help levels. Self-help aid can take the form of loans, work-study or lifetime employment.
Yale’s endowment — currently at its highest-ever level in nominal terms — helps fund financial aid packages. The availability of scholarship funds has been crucial to keeping self-help levels low, according to Storlazzi.
Other high-endowment institutions showed similar numbers this year.
Of all the Ivy League schools, only Columbia chose not to report data. The other seven universities all reported average student debts lower than the national average.
Universities with smaller endowments have not been as successful in curbing student debt. Both Quinnipiac University and the University of Hartford placed within the top twenty universities nationally with the most student debt, driving Connecticut up to sixth place in national levels.
“Unfortunately, smaller colleges with smaller endowments don’t have the ability to award aid as liberally as colleges with larger endowments,” Associate Vice President and Director of Financial Aid at Quinnipiac University Dominic Yoia said.
The smaller endowment institutions also have more students on financial aid. While 64 percent of Yale students who graduated in 2014 were on financial aid, according to the Yale website, over 80 percent of Quinnipiac students are on some sort of financial aid, according to its website.
A recently published report by the College Board has also shown that college costs are on the rise, which can force students to take out more loans.
Matthew Reed, program director at the Institute for College Access & Success, explained that the rise in costs is not only seen in tuition and fees, but also in living expenses, books, supplies, transportation and other expenses.
“Grant aid, both federal and state, and family resources don’t always keep up with the rise in costs so many students turn to borrowing,” Reed said.
Yoia noted that rising costs could specifically impact Connecticut, since states in the northeast have higher costs of living.
Rising student debt could have a significant impact on graduates as they attempt to start their careers, Storlazzi said, noting that graduates will have to consider their debt when deciding on a career. When cumulative debt is kept low, graduates have greater freedom when considering future employment, he said.