Whew! Top 10 Colleges With Highest (And Lowest) Student Debt


Written by Jon Christian, Campus Progress

Some colleges are working hard to keep student debt under control, but others really stink. U.S. News and World Report has released top 10 lists of the schools with the most and least student debt, and the contrast is astonishing.

Kentucky’s Alice Lloyd College had the lowest student debt of $3,108, with only 32 percent of 2010 graduates having taken on loans. In second place was Princeton University, ranked as one of the two best universities nationally by the same publication, with 24 percent of 2010 graduates owing an average of $4,385.

The school with the most student debt was Eastern Nazarene College, in Massachusetts, where 87 percent of 2010 graduates owe an average of $51,336. Following closely were Ohio Northern University and California’s Holy Names University.

“As colleges and universities across the country raise tuition to combat funding shortfalls, students need to come up with more money to finance their degrees,” reads the ranking. “While grants and scholarships are available, few students graduate without accumulating some loan debt.”

Schools with the Most Student Debt

Name – percent of 2010 graduates who borrowed – average student debt

1. Eastern Nazarene College (MA) — 87 percent — $51,336

2. Ohio Northern University (OH) — 85 percent — $48,886

3. Holy Names University (CA) — 79.3 percent — $48,833

4. University of New England (ME) — 88 percent — $47,293

5. Mount Ida College (MA) — 80.3 percent — $46,393

6. La Salle University (PA) — 84 percent — $45,888 41

7. Kettering University (MI) — 78 percent — $45,570

8. St. Joseph’s University (PA) — 62 percent — $45,530

9. Clark Atlanta University (GA) — 93 percent — $45,227

10. Bard College at Simon’s Rock (MA) — 44 percent — $44,910


Schools with the Least Student Debt

Name – percent of 2010 graduates who borrowed – average student debt

1. Alice Lloyd College (KY) — 32 percent— $3,108

2. Princeton University (NJ) — 24 percent— $4,385

3. Anna Maria College (MA) — 77 percent— $5,152

4. College of the Ozarks (MO) — 11 percent— $5,389

5. Berea College (KY) — 73 percent— $5,836

6. Reinhardt University (GA) — 62 percent— $6,131

7. Clearwater Christian College (FL) — 51 percent— $6,365

8. California State University— Bakersfield — 72 percent— $6,730

9. East-West University (IL) — 80 percent— $7,000

10. Cameron University (OK) — 32 percent— $7,200

Even among the schools with the least debt, there was modest variation in the number of students who took on debt. At the College of the Ozarks, for example, only 11 percent of graduates took out loans, while 77 percent of students at Anna Maria College, in Massachusetts, took on debt. Graduates at both schools ended up owing slightly more than $5,000 on average.

Student debt has ballooned since the 1990s to more than a trillion dollars, fueling policy debates about tuition and education that affect many students and all taxpayers.

Among the 1,028 schools that submitted graduate data, about 68 percent of graduates borrowed money to pay for school, according to the ranking. In 2010, the average graduate who had borrowed funds owed nearly $25,000.

But the top ten lists don’t capture some of the worst offenders in the world of higher education.

Most for-profit colleges—which land students with more debt, lower salaries, and a higher unemployment rate than traditional colleges—are considered “unranked” by U.S. News and World Report, in part because of dubious entrance requirements.

For-profit institutions often target students who were tracked neither for college nor vocational work during high school, a segment that researchers have termed the underserved third—many of whom will fail to graduate after racking up debt. In fact, some 44 percent of individuals who default on their student loans attended for-profit schools.

(Read More About For-Profit College Accountability at Campus Progress)

Issues surrounding student debt and loan financing have remained a simmering theme at Occupy Wall Street and related demonstrations, with some organizers calling on graduates to refuse to make loan payments until a progressive demands list is met.

The graduate debt rankings are part of U.S. News’ Short List series, which focuses on particular data points relevant to prospective students.

This post was originally published by Campus Progress.


Related Stories:

100,000 Students Face Loss of Pell Grants

Colleges Slash Tuition to Attract Students… and Pay the Bills

Without More Investment in the Young, Middle Class Could Disappear


Photo from musical photo man via flickr

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SeattleAnn S.
Ann S.3 years ago

These lists don't really give much useful information. For instance, Princeton is #2 on the least debt list, but probably only because the vast majority of students who attend there come from wealthy families and do not need to borrow for their education. There may be a contributing factor from rich benefactors who may establish scholarship or grant money as well.

New G.
New G.3 years ago

Thank you.

Jim Richards
Jim Richards3 years ago

Interesting..lots of bucks ..:(

Jennifer C.
Past Member 3 years ago

Thanks for this article.

Debbie L.
Debbie Lim3 years ago

Wow. That's a lot of money. Universities are really becoming promising businesses.

Kristina C.
Kristina C.3 years ago

Student loan debts are unrealistically high in average; most students will not find employment that pays enough after they graduate to be able to afford the loan payments and also live. I believe the student debt policies have to be re-written and overhauled. Student loans become due - the minute one graduates - which is insane. It is unrealistically to expect from our graduates to make these high payments and it is outrageous how much interests are charged for student loans.
Why can the U.S. not take note of European countries, they seem to do fine and have better schools and universities in general and education is pretty much free.
Is the U.S. not the land of opportunities - or has it changed to the land of opportunities if you have money?

Sheri P.
Sheri P.3 years ago

WOW! I was SO fortunate not to have student loans to pay off after college...

J C Bro
J C Brou3 years ago

How come college ain't free here in the low down dirty South?

G Bud Budlong
G. BUD Budlong3 years ago

NOTE...all but CA-3 and GA-9 are from NE in Most Debt
6 out of 10 least debt are in the south

Makes you wonder where you get more education for your money

Christine Stewart

The presidents of Universities get way more money than any of the professors will see in a lifetime- administrators should not get paid more than the people who actually do the work of teaching! That is what drives costs so high...