WU students bucking national trend on loans

| Staff Reporter

Although the national average for college students taking out loans has increased over the past years, similar trends have not been observed at Washington University.

According to a recent analysis conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project, college graduates who received a bachelor’s degree in 2008 borrowed, on average, 50 percent more than their counterparts who graduated in 1996. These figures were adjusted for inflation.

The numbers come as no surprise to students.

“With college tuition on the rise, it is not too surprising that more students are taking out loans,” said junior Anna-Marie Muchen. “A lot of college kids end up being in debt after graduating. It’s kind of depressing to realize how much getting a bachelor’s degree is going to end up costing our generation.”

The analysis concluded that more college students are attending private for-profit schools, and this, in turn, has resulted in an increased number of students taking out larger loans. Specifically, in 2008 alone, 60 percent of all college graduates across the nation had borrowed, compared with 52 percent in 1996. Of this 60 percent, the average loan for bachelor’s degree recipients was more than $23,000, compared with slightly more than $17,000 in 1996.

Nevertheless, a similar trend might not be present at Washington University, which is considered a private not-for-profit school.

“It’s difficult to know how many Wash. U. students take out loans because some students take out loans without our knowledge,” said Bill Witbrodt, director of Student Financial Services. “However, if we were able to have an accurate count, I’m sure we would see a decrease in the loan numbers.”

According to Witbrodt, the University has adopted the policy of awarding financial aid without loans to students whose family annual incomes are less than $60,000. In addition, Student Financial Services makes an extra effort to minimize the size and quantity of loans students take out using other available sources of funding in lieu of student loans.

The national analysis found that 24 percent of 2008 bachelor’s degree graduates at for-profit schools borrowed more than $40,000, compared to only 5 percent of graduates at public institutions and 14 percent at not-for-profit schools.

The undergraduate tuition at Washington University for the 2010-2011 academic year is $39,400, which is $1,600 or 4.2 percent more than the 2009-2010 tuition of $37,800. This tuition is expected to rise again for the 2011-2012 academic year.

About 60 percent of all Washington University undergraduates receive some form of financial assistance.

“We try to discourage students from borrowing,” Witbrodt said. “Student Financial Services counselors work with students to help them develop financial plans or budgets to monitor their spending to avoid the necessity to borrow more loan funds than are required.”

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