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Student debt on the rise
In Kansas and across the country student debt is on the rise, though the debt burdens of Kansas students are, as you might expect, smaller.
A new report from the Institute for College Access and Success, a nonprofit focused on college affordability, shows more than 70 percent of college seniors who graduated in 2012 left school with student loan debt.
That's a lot of indebted graduates. More troubling is that the average debt among them has grown. For 2012 the average debt load was $29,400. That number has been on the rise for several years, ticking up about 6 percent per year on average.
Kansas students are in a bit better shape. In 2012 the average debt taken out by KU students was $23,468, almost $6,000 less than the national average reported by College Access and Success, though that number has also risen from 2008's average of $20,902. For all students graduating from a public university in Kansas, the average debt load is $23,000, according to figures from the Kansas Board of Regents.
While those figures are far better than the national average, and while acknowledging that an average masks very different experiences across students, even Kansas' lower student debt figures could be a problem, especially for lower income students.
In a recent conversation with William Elliot, a KU associate professor of social welfare and the founding director Assets and Education Initiative, Elliott said that student debt burdens even below $20,000 can affect the long-term financial prospects of lower income students. Moreover, the prospect of debt can discourage loan-averse students from enrolling in 4-year programs or from going to college altogether.
To address the problem Elliott and others have advocated for encouraging college savings accounts and even restructuring federal financial aid to more of a savings model. Others are looking sharply at debt and graduate income levels to measure the value of a college education. And still others are just generally freaked out about the $1 trillion in outstanding student debt U.S. adults are trying to pay off.
And I'm proud, sad and frightened to say I'm among them. That's why I need your KU news tips to keep the show going. Send them along to firstname.lastname@example.org