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Cumulative Loan Debt Accrued by CU-Boulder Bachelor's Grads

Perry Sailor, ODA, October 2015


  • The population was FY 2014-15 graduates with bachelor’s degrees, who entered as freshmen (N=3,991).
  • They were divided into 3 groups: (1) Entered as resident, graduated as resident (R-R); (2) entered as non-resident, converted, and graduated as resident (N-R); and (3) entered as non-resident, graduated as non-resident (N-N). Only about 6% of students were in the N-R (converters) group. Seven students who switched from R to N were dropped from analyses, as well as 3 more with a missing value on Family Resources quartile, leaving 3,981.
  • Variables: Years with loans, percent with student loans, percent with parent loans, percent with either, averages and distributions of total debt from student loans, total debt from parent loans, and total debt. (Parent loans do not require demonstration of financial need and are at higher interest rates than student loans.) All means and percentiles were computed two ways: (1) including only students with any loan debt (that is, excluding students with zero debt), and (2) including all students, including those with zero debt. They are differentiated in the tables below.


  • Just over half of those who were residents at time of degree, including those residents who entered as nonresidents, had some loan debt. Just under a third of students who entered as and remained nonresidents had loan debt. These percentages have been quite stable over the years.
  • Virtually all students with any debt (either their own or parents’) had some student loans; only about 1% had parent loans without student loans. Among students with loans, 38% of R-R students, 29% of N-R students, and 49% of N-N students also had parent loans.
  • The average student loan debt for R-R students with any was around $23,200 (median $22,500). The average and median were each about $1,000 more than for the prior year’s graduates, continuing a slow upward trend over the years, from about $17,000 10 years ago.
  • The average parent loan debt for the 20% of R-R students with any was $42,100 (median $36,600). The average was about $5,700 more than for the prior year’s graduates, although the percentage with any parent loan debt dropped from 23% to 20%.
  • The average student loan debt for the 29% of N-N students with any debt was $25,800 (median $21,000), almost exactly the same as for the previous year’s cohort. The average parent loan debt for the 15% of N-N students with any was $96,100 (median $97,475). Again, the average went up, but the percentage of parents with any debt went down, from 18% to 15%.
  • When students with no debt are included in averages, they’re considerably lower. Averaged across all bachelor’s recipients in the group, the average R-R student had about $12,100 in student loan debt, while the N-N average was about $7,500.
  • Because many more student have student loans than parent loans, you cannot simply add average student loan debt if any and average parent loan debt if any to get average total loan debt. Average total debt is far less than these sums. Average total debt for those with any debt – parent and student combined – was $39,000 for R-R, $61,200 for N-R, and $73,300 for N-N. Medians were $27,200, $47,200, and $47,200 respectively. For R-Rs, the average was about $1,300 more than for last year’s class, for N-Ns about $1,900 less.
  • When students/parents with no debt were included, the averages were $20,600 for R-R, $37,900 for N-R, and $21,800 for N-N. However, the range is very large for all groups. The average residents was about the same as the previous year’s class, for non-residents about $2,500 less.
  • In our analyses we assign families to one of four quartiles according to the amount of financial resources they have available, with a fifth group composed of families who did not apply for need-based aid and who are thus assumed to have the most resources. The graphs and tables below show average debt by family resources group, as well as combined across resources groups. There are separate tables for residents and non-residents. (The relatively small number of students who converted from non-resident to resident between entry and graduation are excluded.)


Also see...

Perry Sailor - L:\ir\emgt\fa\cumdebt12-13.doc, graphs from L:\ir\emgt\fa\cumdebtlong.xlsx

Last revision 05/02/16

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