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

Perry Sailor, ODA, November 2008


  • The population was FY 2007-8 graduates with bachelor’s degrees (N=3,883), who entered as freshmen.
  • They were divided into 3 groups: (1) Entered as resident, graduated as resident (RR); (2) entered as nonresident, converted, and graduated as resident (NR); and (3) entered as nonresident, graduated as nonresident (NN). Only about 7% of students are in the NR group. 10 students with missing data and 2 who entered as residents and graduated as non-residents were discarded from the analysis, leaving 3,871 in the analysis.
  • 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.


  • About half of those who were residents at time of degree, and 3 in 5 of those residents who entered as nonresidents, had some loan debt. Just over a quarter of students who entered as and remained nonresidents had loan debt.
  • Virtually all students with any debt (student or parent) had some student loans – only about 1% had parent loan debt with no student loans. Among students with loans, about half of RR students, 38% of NR students, and 61% of NN students also had parent loans.
  • The average student loan debt for RR students with any was $17,000. The average parent loan debt for RR students with any was $24,000.
  • The average student loan debt for the quarter of NN students with any was $18,000. The average parent loan debt for the fifth of NN students with any was $73,000.
  • 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 $29,000 for RR, $43,000 for NR, and $64,000 for NN. Medians were $23,000, $36,000, and $52,000 respectively.
  • When students/parents with no debt were included, the averages were $14,000 for RR, $25,000 for NR, and $18,000 for NN. However, the range is very large for all groups. These averages are all somewhat higher than they were for the last graduating class we checked, the previous year (FY 2006-7).
  • 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. As would be expected, that group had far less average debt than students who applied for need-based aid. But the next lowest debt load – in terms of percent with any debt and average amount of debt – was the group with the least resources. This was not true in earlier years. We thought perhaps this reflected a trend toward more non-loan aid going to that most needy group, but we cannot find any evidence for this.

Also see...

Perry Sailor - L:\ir\emgt\fa\cumdebt07-08.doc

Last revision 05/02/16

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