MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — University of Minnesota students are graduating with less debt each year. 

A report presented at a Board of Regents meeting Thursday showed the average debt taken on by degree recipients at the university’s Twin Cities campus has declined since peaking at $27,578 in the 2011-12 academic year. As of the 2017-18 academic year, the average debt for these students has decreased to $25,573. 

At the same time, the percentage of degree recipients with no debt on the Twin Cities campus has increased from 36% in the 2008-09 academic year to 44% in the 2017-18 academic year. 

This data did include federal Parent PLUS Loans, which allow parents to take on debt for the student. 

“Over the last half decade, the borrowing has shifted.. into parents bearing more of the loan burden for the family,” said Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education Bob McMaster at the presentation. 

When it comes to student debt for bachelor’s degree recipients, the university is among the more affordable schools in the Big 10, with the fourth lowest numbers behind the University of Nebraska, the University of Illinois and the University of Michigan. 

The university also boasts less debt than the state average, which was $31,734 in 2017. 

Part of the university’s strategy to keep debt down comes from a plan to increase financial aid and scholarships the school provides, according to the presentation. Regent Darrin Rosha pushed back on this strategy, claiming increasing financial aid using tuition dollars helps some students while hurting others. 

 “I would say… institutional financial aid generated through tuition — I would call it the opioid of higher education funding. It feels good. We can raise more money by raising tuition and then tell ourselves it doesn’t hurt anybody because we’re going to direct it to some students as financial aid, but it eats away at the mission of the university,” Rosha said at the meeting.

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