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

Perry Sailor, PBA, September 2006


  • The population was FY 2005-6 graduates with bachelor’s degrees (N=3,767), 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). One student with loan debt entered as a resident and graduated as a nonresident. This case was discarded from analyses.
  • 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 two thirds of those residents who entered as nonresidents, had some loan debt. About 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, 40% of NR students, and two thirds of NN students also had parent loans.
  • The average amount of student and parent loan debt, if any, was roughly comparable across residency groups, ranging from $15-26,000 for students and $20-25,000 for parents. The exception was parent loan debt for the NN group, which averaged $67,000. However, when students/parents with no debt were included, the averages ranged from $4-17,000 for the three groups of students, with the NR group highest, and $5-10,000 for parents, with the NN group highest.
  • Mean total debt for those with any debt – parent and student combined – was $25,000 for RR, $34,000 for NR, and $57,000 for NN. Medians were $20,000, $27,000, and $43,000 respectively. When students/parents with no debt were included, the averages were $12,000 for RR, $22,000 for NR, and $14,000 for NN. However, the range is very large for all groups. These averages are all slightly higher than they were for the last graduating class we checked, two years previous (FY 2003-4).
  • 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. Excluding this group, 79-100% of each quartile had debt, except for RR’s in the 4th quartile (highest in resources of those applying for aid), at 68%. Among families not applying for aid, 19% of RR, 36% of NR, and 8% of NN families had debt.
  • Excluding families who didn’t apply for need-based aid, the family resource quartile had little relationship to debt. Group membership (i.e., RR, NR, or NN) had a much bigger relationship, with RRs having the least debt and NNs the most.

Also see...

Perry Sailor - L:\ir\emgt\fa\cumdebt05-06.doc

Last revision 10/21/09

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