When it comes to student debt at Ohio’s public research universities, University of Akron students had the least and Kent State students the most, according to a new report.
The Institute on College Access and Success says 2012 UA graduates earning bachelor’s degrees owed about $23,300 compared with Kent State graduates’ $31,900, which was almost $3,000 more than both the state average of $29,000 and national one of $29,400.
Michelle Ellis, executive director of financial aid at UA, said she was not surprised that Akron’s main campus did so well this year. She pointed out that UA often has been near the bottom in student debt, possibly in part because it does not have a large residence hall population.
“We’re making a multifaceted effort to inform students about debt, and it’s working,” Ellis said.
That includes talking to students more about debt and encouraging them to take the full-time load of 16 credit hours per semester to finish school as quickly as possible.
Nationwide, seven in 10 students owed money for their educations last year, according to the nonprofit organization that tracks students’ rising debt.
The 2012 debt was up about 10 percent from the previous year’s national estimate of $26,600. Debt rose about 6 percent every year from 2008 to 2012, according to the report.
The Institute on College Access and Success, or Ticas, arrived at those numbers by using data that colleges and universities provided to Peterson’s, which develops college guides.
The numbers represent the federal and private debt accumulated by students who received bachelor’s degrees from public and private colleges — with some caveats.
The debt figures might understate actual borrowing because they do not include transfer students nor private loans that the college or university didn’t know about.
In addition, some colleges and universities, stung by being named a “high-debt” college by Ticas in the past, might not report their student debt.
That leaves “those who do report stuck on an unequal playing field,” Matthew Reed, the report’s primary author, said in a news release.
None of Ohio’s public or private colleges made either the high-debt or low-debt national lists in 2012.
At Kent State, graduates’ 7 percent rise in student debt from $29,800 to $31,900 might reflect the high proportion of residence hall students on the main campus, financial aid director Mark Evans suggested.
“We do have a flight program that will add $60,000 in tuition to a student’s cost,” he said. “We are promoting the study-abroad experience and recruiting heavily outside of Ohio.”
Out-of-state students often pay higher tuition rates than in-state students.
Kent State displaced Bowling Green State University as Ohio’s highest-debt public college in 2012.
Bowling Green’s average student debt dropped from $33,000 in 2011 to $31,300 in 2012, according to Ticas.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3729.