A study from the website LendEDU aims to show how American student loan debt has changed over the past decade. The study’s ranking statistics focus on three main objectives: the percent change of graduates with student loan debt, the change of the average student debt per borrower and how the percent change of debt increases or decreases on average per borrower.
The study focused on the changes that occurred between 2007 and 2017 and included five different school types. The possible categories consisted of the overall option which included all the schools who willingly submitted to the study, private institutions, public institutions, historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) and women’s only institutions.
Michael Brown, author of the study and research analyst with LendEDU, said that from 2007 to 2017, the average student loan debt monetary figure had increased by $9,212. He also said that the percentage of graduates with student loan debt had decreased 3% over the years.
“This decade-long percent change meant that Mercer University was ranked #83 when compared to how the average student debt per borrower figure has changed at 921 other colleges throughout the country,” Brown said.
The study concluded that from 2007 to 2017, Mercer’s percent difference in average debt per borrower increased by 8.98% with a monetary value increase of a $2,178. The average debt per borrower between these years was $24,251, while the average debt per graduate from Mercer University only increased by 1%.
James Netherton, executive vice president for administration and finance, explains that is the sacrifices of Mercer’s faculty and staff throughout the years that has kept the average debt per borrower at a lower rate. Their dedication to consistently make cuts allows the university to maintain a steady rate of tuition, which decreases the debt per student borrower from year to year.
“Throughout this ten year span the average debt per borrower has not exceeded more than a 4% increase from year to year, meaning Mercer’s faculty and staff are used to doing more with less, because we believe in the mission and are dedicated to our students,” Netherton said.
It is clear that part of the increase in average student debt has occurred due to the increase in tuition, but the main part of the increase comes from the management of the student loans. It is crucial that the borrower be aware of their accruing debt and how to properly manage the debt before and after they graduate.
Cathy Santamarina is the Director of Student Loans at Mercer University. She said that there are three steps to managing a student’s loan debt. First, she said that she suggests students estimate the cost of attendance before they attend an institution.
Once budgeting for the cost of attendance, she said the student should seek out scholarships. Finally, Santamarina said the student should research the possible student loan options they have and research the benefits and interest rate associated with the type of loan they are considering.
“I believe that knowing what lender your loans are held with and understanding the terms of your loans will allow you to manage your loans more efficiently, so that you avoid going into extensive debt. A good starting place is NSLDS (National Student Loan Data System), which houses all federal loans. Next check with any universities you’ve attended to see if you have any private loans,” Santamarina said.
Shariel Felicien, a junior at Mercer University and student worker at the loans office, said she agrees with Santamarina and believes that learning about possible loan options will help students set a plan for managing loan debt.
“I can’t tell you how many students I’ve spoken to who didn’t realize that they qualify for a deferment when they have issues paying their monthly bills,” Felicien said. “As dreary as it may sound to read about loans, I believe that my knowledge in the subject matter has enabled me to make smart financial decisions.”