Despite President Obama’s five-stop campaign to keep down college costs, students remain concerned about the rising debt awaiting them after receiving their diploma.
“I turned down public and private schools, including the University of Hawaii, which is my home state’s university,” said Scott Shigeoka, a 2011 graduate. “In addition to having a great communications program, one of the many reasons I picked Washington State University was because it offered me the best financial package, which meant lower post-graduation debt.”
Shigeoka says he graduated with $23,000 in student debt, and among the 150 institutions featured in The Princeton Review’s Best Value Colleges, 144 showed average student debts in the thousands.
And of those 144 institutions, 61 of them (30 private and 31 public) had average debt accrued while in college listed at more than $20,000 — including Iowa State University, a public institution with the highest average debt on the list at $30,062.
Though they had the highest average debt, Iowa State’s tuition costs — $6,408 in-state and $18,208 out of state — was moderate compared to the in-state tuition of Utah State University in Logan, Vt. ($15,252) or the out of state tuition of University of California — Riverside ($34,562).
In comparison, the number of schools doubled since last year’s rankings where only 32 of the 100 schools ranked had their average debt listed at more than $20,000. Only three of those schools actually made the top 10 private and public lists, including two private institutions — Wesleyan College (No. 9) and Wesleyan University (No. 6) — and the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor (No. 6).
To escape the high costs of tuition, Georgia College & State University junior Lindsay Shoemake first attended community college during her freshman year and says she saved more than $10,000.
“I did not attend Georgia College & State University at first, because I wanted to do all that I could to save money and lessen my student loan,” Shoemake said. “Freshman year is typically the most expensive for students due to required meal plans, on-campus housing and student fees, so being able to avoid most of those expenses was important to me.”
However, of the private universities listed in this year’s The Princeton Review Best Value Colleges, not one had an average graduating debt above $20,000.
Among the schools to make the list for private institutions were Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. (No. 1), Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Penn. (No. 2) and Rice University in Houston, Tex. (No. 5).
Ivy League schools like Princeton University (No. 3), Harvard University (No. 4) and Yale University (No. 8) made the list while still managing to keep their average debt relatively low in comparison to their public school counterparts. In fact, Princeton had the lowest average debt listed of all of the private universities in the rankings.
Meaning students worried about looming college debt still have options, whether with scholarships, loans or community college.
“People always tell me no one cares where you got your [undergraduate degree] anyway, so I’ll wait to pile up the debt in grad school,” said James Northcutt, a junior at the University of Memphis. “No reason to bury yourself in debt before you have any kind of solid income.”
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