Virginia schools buck trend of national student debt increases
Two-thirds of graduates from the class of 2011 reported a five percent increase in student-loan debt, totaling an average of $26,500 upon graduation, according to a study released Thursday by the Institute for College Access and Success.
Perpetually increasing pricetags are a contemporary hallmark of higher education across the nation, with the University’s out-of-state tuition per semester having risen about $10,000 in the past decade.
The report’s findings detailed slight decreases in debt, however, for those who graduate from Virginia colleges, with a total amount of about $24,000 upon graduation. Only one-third of the University’s class of 2011 graduated with debt, weighing in at $20,951, which is less than Virginia Tech’s average of $24,320 and George Mason’s $23,506, according to the institute.
Schools with the highest debt are not necessarily the ones with hefty tuition rates, though. High-debt public and private colleges are those whose students’ debt at graduation averages between $31,900 to $46,100. The majority of high-debt public universities have in-state tuition rates less than $10,000, whereas nearly half of high-debt private colleges charge less for tuition than the national average.
This seeming contradiction exists because private colleges offer more financial aid resources to low-income students to offset tuition prices, and because many students apply to schools that seem cheaper at face-value, but offer poorer financial aid packages or loans.
The high-debt states are mainly located in the Northeast and Midwest, whereas low-debt states are primarily in the West and South.
The report examined self-reported data from nonprofit public and private four-year universities, excluding for-profit colleges.
The University’s College at Wise has the lowest debt among public liberal arts colleges, according to U.S. World and News Report, with only half of students graduating with debt that averaged $10,180 last year.