Idaho 17th in average student loans

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COEUR d’ALENE — A new report on student loans shows that Idaho has slightly improved how it handles student debt, but still has plenty of room for improvement.

Wednesday’s LendEDU report analyzed 4-year public and private nonprofit colleges and universities using financial aid data released by Peterson’s earlier this month.

Idaho ranked 17th nationwide, with an average of $26,604 in student debt per borrower. The amount per Idaho college graduate had decreased 1.39 percent from the previous year. Still, 61 percent of Idaho college students graduate with debt, said the statistics.

At $18,425, Utah ranked first with the lowest average student debt per borrower. Utah also had the smallest percentage of students with student loans, at 39 percent.

Pennsylvania topped the list at 51st with an average student debt burden of $36,193 per borrower. Seventy-four percent of New Hampshire graduates got their diplomas with student debts.

“When including those with no student loans, the average graduate in the Class of 2017 had $16,320 in debt. This is down by $403 from the Class of 2016 where the average debt per graduate was $16,723,” said the report.

However, the average borrower graduated with $28,288 in loans, up from $27,975 the year before.

Schools in Idaho generally ranked toward the middle of the pack. The exception was The College of Idaho, a private school in Caldwell. At $7,202, it ranked fifth nationwide for the lowest average student loan burden per borrower.

The University of Idaho ranked 255th nationwide with an average student debt load of $25,145, down 5.25 percent from the previous year. Fifty-nine percent of Vandal grads left with debt in 2017, down 7.81 percent from 2016.

Lewis-Clark State College ranked 378th nationwide, followed by Boise State University at 418th, Idaho State University at 505th, and Northwest Nazarene University at 803rd.

University of Idaho director of student financial aid services Dan Davenport said the school tries to help students avoid debt through its financial literacy program known as BEAMS, or Better Education About Money for Students. A few years ago the university also started mailing them notices about how much debt they already had, and what their loan repayments would look like once they graduated.

“We feel this makes the students think more about how much they borrow for the next year,” Davenport said.

The school recently expanded the Western Undergraduate Exchange program, which allows some students from nearby states to attend UI at 150 percent of the in-state tuition rate. The University of Idaho awards almost $25 million in merit, need, and achievement-based scholarships annually, Davenport said. More than 4,700 of the scholarship recipients for 2017-18 were from Idaho, receiving over $12.8 million in support, he said.

Ivy League schools ranked near the top of the list for the lowest average student debt per borrower. Princeton University ranked ninth with $9,005 of debt per student, followed by Yale University at 18th with $13,050 per student, and Harvard University at 24th with $15,114 of student debt per borrower.

The study did not include community colleges.

According to the LendEDU report, the $1.52 trillion in outstanding student debts constitutes the second-largest form of consumer debt in America. Forty-five million people carry student loans, with an average default rate of 11.5 percent on federal loans. The U.S. Department of Education is estimated to net a profit of $127 billion on loans over the next decade, according to the report.

Information: Average Student Loan Debt Statistics

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