College Rankings: Schools with Graduates in the Most, Least Amount of Debt

Paying for College / Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

We talk a lot about college around here, so I thought I would mention that the U.S. News & World Report college rankings came out today.

There are dozens of ways you can compare colleges with the information included in the rankings. But since we also talk a lot about avoiding student loans around here, I thought it was appropriate to share with you the colleges where students graduated with the most and least amount of debt in 2010.

National Universities Where the Class of 2010 Graduated with the Most Debt

This list surprised me. The University of North Dakota at #1? And not a single Harvard or Yale?

  1. University of North Dakota
  2. Clark Atlanta University
  3. Nova Southeastern University
  4. Barry University
  5. Florida Institute of Technology
  6. New York University
  7. Regent University
  8. Widener University
  9. Case Western Reserve University
  10. Stephens Institute of Technology

See the full list here.

The average amount of debt per student ranged from $45,369 at #1 University of North Dakota to $38,554 at #10 Stephens Institute of Technology.

From the schools on this list, the percentage of graduating students who have borrowed ranged from a high of 93% at Clark Atlanta University to a low of 55% at New York University.

National Universities Where the Class of 2010 Graduated with the Least Debt

More surprises. Now here’s where we find the Ivies. Is that because Ivy League students tend to come from families with wealth?

And it looks like Texas is the place to be if you want to graduate without debt. Four of the ten schools on this list are in Texas.

  1. Princeton University
  2. Sam Houston State University
  3. Yale University
  4. Harvard University
  5. California Institute of Technology
  6. Texas Tech University
  7. Lamar University
  8. Brigham Young University – Provo
  9. Rice University
  10. Louisiana Tech University

See the full list here.

The average amount of debt ranged from $4,385 at #1 Princeton University to $14,039 at #10 Louisiana Tech University.

From the schools on this list, the percentage of graduating students who have borrowed ranged from a high of 63% at Lamar University to a low of 24% at Princeton University.

So, what do you think? Are you surprised by the schools or numbers on this list? Do you see any patterns or have any theories about why these schools are there?

17 Replies to “College Rankings: Schools with Graduates in the Most, Least Amount of Debt”

  1. Not surprised to find Yale on the least debt list. I know someone’s who has a daughter that goes to Yale and yes she was a National Merit Scholarship Finalist and that school does need based tuition or maybe they call it scholarships so it costs them less than $500 a year for her to go there. And T. Boone Pickens grandson goes there and he can probably pay full price.

    1. Interesting, Vicki. I get that she’s a National Merit Finalist, but Yale probably sees more than it’s share of NMFs so it’s interesting they provide so much aide.

      Funny that T. Boone’s grandson isn’t at OSU. But, yes, I imagine he didn’t need to take out student loans. :-)

  2. I have to say I was surprised, but now, thinking about it, it makes sense. Ivy League student may be more wealthy in the first place. At last in greater numbers than a non-Ivy.

    It’s very interesting though.

  3. I do know that a lot of the big schools offer a variety of aid, but I wonder if this factors in parents’ contributions? It seems more likely that upper class families are able to afford sending (paying for) their children to ivy league schools – just a thought. I would be interested to read more of the demographics.

  4. Niki and 20’s – After my initial surprise, that was my thought too. That these students are more likely to come from families with the means to pay for their educations.

    Also, the Ivies and schools like them no doubt have larger endowments, which they can use to give aid to other students.

  5. Some years ago Yale and other Ivies were alarmed at the debt their graduates left with. They responded by taking loans out of the financial aid office. Their very generous program now meets 100% of all students demonstrated financial need without loans.
    Other schools use loans as part of a the financial aid package -in fact when presented a schools offer it is very difficult to determine which amounts are grants and which are loans. Certainly, the Ivies have huge endowments that many schools don’t but all the schools on the most debt list could do better by their students.

    1. Cassie, thanks for your info. Kudos to the Ivies for responding to the college debt crisis. I agree with you that financial aid packages are difficult to decipher. Everything is often lumped under one, big category, when it’s really a combination of loans, grants, and merit scholarships.

  6. Cassie said what I was going to about the Ivies. They work very hard to ensure that if you can get accepted, you can afford to go there, without taking on massive debt.
    My cousin attends Reed College, an expensive, private 4 year university that limits the amount of loans that they allow their students to take out to the federal Stafford program. They will not allow students to take out private student loans to attend.
    At the same time, they are a stickler for the FAFSA listed family contribution. The school will adjust its aid to students based on their other aid to ensure the family contribution is being paid by the family. This mostly means that poor kids can’t afford to go there without help from extended family (which we give my cousin) because the FAFSA calculated family contribution is somewhat unrealistic.

    1. I’m glad to know this info about the Ivies. Based on your info about the FAFSA, however, I’ll bet there are a lot of middle class and even upper middle class kids unable to attend as well. Those FAFSA numbers can be brutal.

  7. Some of the best schools have graduates with very little debt. Chances are they received more aid than the graduates of the other schools. Making an investment in yourself pays off!

  8. Very interesting. I thought a lot more state schools would be on the low end, and I was surprised to see Ivy leaguers on there at first. I think the Ivy League schools have more students of wealthy families, though. I was surprised at Cassie’s comment that Ivies try to cover 100% for students who need it — what an excellent program!

  9. Yes, the Ivies have huge endowments to make sure their students are able to attend, as do many of the private colleges do. The hard part is getting accepted- that is where investing in yourself by studying hard in high school pays off!

  10. Wow, that is shocking about U of ND! Where is that anyway? J/k.

    Great to see the world’s most expensive schools in Yale and Harvard graduate students withe the least amount of debt thanks to their mega endowment!

    BTW, do you have a retweet buton? I might be blind and wanted to share the post.



  11. I’m not sure if the comments will show this link, but there was a good article about how Ivy League schools determine financial aid here:

    It said that if a Yale or Harvard student’s family has an income of $60,000 or less, they will pay $0 in tuition. And it’s a sliding scale from there. At Dartmouth, it’s $0 for families who make less than $75,000. All the Ivy League scholarships are NEED based, not merit based. But you can combine a merit based scholarship from an outside organization to help pay for costs too.

    1. Thanks for sharing the article, Kim. I plan to check it out. Your info seems to be matching what other comments on this thread have said. That’s definitely something I didn’t realize.

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