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 email@example.com
Greetings Heard on the Hill Readers,
Last week I joined the Lawrence Journal-World’s staff and will soon take over the Kansas University beat and Heard on the Hill blog from Matt Erickson as he moves on to other things and other places.
Since I came aboard, Matt has been taking me around campus to introduce me to as many deans and administrators and faculty as he can wrangle up in mid-summer. He’s been a phenomenal help in getting me up to speed. His efforts hopefully will make the transition as smooth as possible for me, for the folks who regularly have to field my questions, and for Journal-World readers.
The university is a huge and fascinating institution. Big research universities like KU generate vast amounts of knowledge and, like all universities, they enjoy a rich intellectual life. For someone who loved learning new things in college and preferred studying to going out to the bars, it's amazing and a little ridiculous that I get to write about research and university events for a living.
I've also walked into the job during a dramatic transition for KU and colleges across the country. Federal and state cuts have strained university budgets, forcing higher ed institutions to find new sources of revenue and to scale back their basic research and services. The country collectively holds about $1 trillion in student debt, a statistic that worries many and puts pressure on colleges to prove their value. Online education and other technologies have opened new models of curriculum and degree-getting that some think could disrupt higher education the same way that the Internet has disrupted media companies, along with just about every other kind of organization.
A big part of my job will be monitoring these trends as they play out on the hill. Of course, KU is also unique in many ways, and I'm excited about giving readers a window into the personalities and daily goings on at campus.
A little bit about me, if you're curious: I have lived in Lawrence on and off for about 7 years, all told. I did my undergraduate work in economics and creative writing at KU, a double major that confused and distressed my peers in both schools. More recently I reported for the Kansas City Star's business desk and for a digital news startup called the Missouri Business Alert. I did my master's work in journalism at (please no judgment) the University of Missouri.
I began my own higher education kind of late. Before attending KU, I worked as a waiter, bus boy, fry cook, janitor, video store clerk, warehouse drone and fast food worker. I got a lot of experience from those jobs and worked with great people, but I must say newspaper work is quite a bit more exciting.
So that's all by way of introduction. All of you out there in Journal-World-land, please don't hesitate to reach out if you have questions, comments or pertinent information. Matt will surely be missed, but I will do everything I can to keep you all informed and engaged. Let me know if there's anything I can do to better accomplish that.
And if you really want to get things off to a rollicking start, you can send your KU news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sincerely, Ben Unglesbee, The New Guy