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

Perry Sailor, ODA, June 2011


  • The population was FY 2009-10 graduates with bachelor’s degrees (N=4,056), who entered as freshmen.
  • They were divided into 3 groups: (1) Entered as resident, graduated as resident (R-R); (2) entered as nonresident, converted, and graduated as resident (N-R); and (3) entered as nonresident, graduated as nonresident (N-N). Only about 6% of students are in the NR group. Eight students who either had missing data or switched from R to N were dropped from analyses, leaving 4,048.
  • 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, including 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 (either their own or parents’) had some student loans; only about 1% had parent loans without student loans. Among students with loans, about half of R-R students, 28% of N-R students, and 62% of N-N students also had parent loans.
  • The average student loan debt for R-R students with any was $18,000. The average parent loan debt for R-R students with any was $27,000. Both figures were about $1,000 more than for the prior year’s graduates.
  • The average student loan debt for the quarter of N-N students with any was $18,000. The average parent loan debt for the fifth of N-N students with any was $67,000.
  • 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 $32,000 for R-R, $47,000 for N-R, and $59,000 for N-N. Medians were $24,000, $43,000, and $42,000 respectively.
  • When students/parents with no debt were included, the averages were $16,000 for R-R, $29,000 for N-R, and $17,000 for N-N. However, the range is very large for all groups. These averages are about the same as for the previous graduating class.
  • 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 most earlier years, but has now been the true for three consecutive years (Exception: In 2008 for residents, the group with least resources was in the middle of the 5 groups in mean student loan debt, not 2nd-lowest.). This appears to be because more non-loan aid is going to that most needy group (Click here to see the tables). It’s probably due to a combination of increases in institutional aid and in Pell Grants.


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Perry Sailor - L:\ir\emgt\fa\cumdebt09-10.doc

Last revision 05/02/16

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