Student loan debt in Arizona schools among lowest nationwide


(Graph designed by Mark Saunders, statistics from Project of Student Debt)

By Clark Mindock

According to a The Institute for College Access & Success, Arizona colleges and universities are ranked 45th in the nation for average graduating student debt.

The study found Arizona students were just behind California students with an average of $19,950 of student loan debt upon graduating in 2011. An estimated 49 percent of Arizona college graduates had debt in 2011.

Voluntary reports from 1,057 private and public schools across the country were considered when conducting the study.

The average student debt for those who earned bachelors degrees in 2011 nationwide grew from $25,250 to $26,600 — slightly more than a five percent increase, according to a press release from the institution.

“The reasonable higher education costs in Arizona undoubtedly contribute to the low level of student debt,” said Sarah Harper, director of Office Affairs for the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR). “Despite increases in recent years, tuition and fees at Arizona’s public universities remain competitive among similar institutions.”

According to the report, graduating student loan debts correlated to regional similarities, with the west and the south having the lowest student loan debt. The highest student loan debt was found in the midwest and the northeast.

Recent college graduate unemployment rates had decreased slightly from 2010, but were still less than ideal. Of recent college graduates, the unemployment rate for 2011 was 8.8 percent, down from 9.1 percent the year before. The unemployment rate for those with only a high school diploma was more than double of college graduates at 19.1 percent.

“Apparently I do [have a significant amount of student debt] off of freshman year alone,” said Nabeyin Panford, a senior electronic media and film major. “Heck yeah, it’s surprising that Arizona [has a low student debt rate]. The only people that I know that aren’t in debt are full-scholarship athletes. Everybody else that I’ve talked to, everybody has some type of debt that they have to pay off.”

In February, Arizona legislators voted to increase tuition requirements in the state. The vote came after the legislators learned “nearly half of students at Arizona State University did not pay tuition in the 2009-10 school year, whether due to financial aid need or scholarships.” The “nearly half” estimate has been refuted as being misleading and that the actual figure is closer to 25 percent.


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