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

Perry Sailor, ODA, November 2012


  • The population was FY 2011-12 graduates with bachelor’s degrees (N=4,420), who entered as freshmen.
  • 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 are in the N-R (converters) group. Nine students who switched from R to N were dropped from analyses, as were two who had missing family resources information, leaving 4,409.
  • 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.
  • 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, 44% of R-R students, 39% of N-R students, and 59% of N-N students also had parent loans.
  • The average student loan debt for R-R students with any was around $20,900 (median $20,000). The average was about $1,400 more than for the prior year’s graduates and continued a steady upward trend the last several years.
  • The average parent loan debt for R-R students with any was $29,500 (median $23,600). The average was about $500 more than for the prior year’s graduates.
  • The average student loan debt for the 32% of N-N students with any debt was $24,400 (median $20,100). The average parent loan debt for the 19% of N-N students with any was $73,200 (median $69,200).
  • 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 $10,700 in student loan debt, while the N-N average was about $7,400.
  • 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 $34,000 for R-R, $54,000 for N-R, and $68,000 for N-N. Medians were $26,000, $46,000, and $55,000 respectively. For R-Rs, the average was about $700 higher than last year’s class, for N-Ns about $7,100 more.
  • When students/parents with no debt were included, the averages were $18,000 for R-R, $36,000 for N-R, and $22,000 for N-N. However, the range is very large for all groups. The average for residents was about $1,600 higher than for the previous graduating class, while for non-residents it was about $2,900 higher.
  • 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.)
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    Also see...

    Perry Sailor - L:\ir\emgt\fa\cumdebt10-11.doc, graphs from L:\ir\emgt\fa\cumdebtlong.xlsx

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