If you’re looking at colleges, one of your main considerations is probably going to be cost. You’ve got your eye out for certain numbers: Price of tuition, Total expenses per year, Average total financial aid package and Average need-based financial aid package.
But here’s a question students and parents don’t often think to ask, and it’s this:
What’s the average student loan debt of a graduating student?
The answer to this question isn’t a mystery. If you ask someone in the admissions office, they’ll tell you right away, or look it up. And this information is readily available on websites for organizations like The Princeton Review. No one tries to keep that information secret. It’s just that people don’t often ask.
Why is this an important question? It gives you a good sense of how much need realistically is not being met by the college and other financial aid sources. The FAFSA tells schools what a student’s “official” need is–but that doesn’t always reflect reality. If students are taking out excessive amounts of loans, that’s a good sign that they need for money that the school can’t offer. On the other hand, if the average loan amount is less than at comparable schools, that’s a good sign that the school is more affordable than you might think.
Of course, a little bit of iva advice would make you understand that the loan debt statistic isn’t perfect. If there are an unusual amount of socioeconomically privileged students at the school, that debt number might be low because many students won’t need to take out loans. And if there’s an unusual amount of socioeconomically disadvantaged students, these students might be eligible for special aid, therefore freeing them from the burden of loans.
However, imperfect as this information may be, be sure to find out about average student debt, as you need as much information as you can get about how much a college education is going to cost you.