BLOOMBERG BUSINESS: You’re Probably Wrong About How Much Debt You Have

Career College Central Summary:

  • College students know disturbingly little about how much debt they're taking on—in fact, almost a third of students with federal debt don't know they have it at all, a new report shows. The least confused students are the very group characterized as the easiest prey for loan sharks: those at for-profit colleges. 
  • For a Brookings Institution report released Wednesday, researchers looked at a nationwide sample of first-year college students and compared the amount of federal loans they said they'd taken out to figures from a national database that tracks federal borrowing. When asked whether or not they had federal loans, roughly a third of indebted students at community colleges, public colleges, and private colleges incorrectly said "no." By contrast, 18 percent of students at for-profits failed the question, the report said. 
  • While for-profit schools, who've increasingly come under government scrutiny, are regularly accused of taking advantage of low-income students through all sorts of schemes, the report shows these students aren't as misinformed about their debt as popular perception suggests. In fact, the Brookings researchers didn't find any strong relationship between how accurate a student was in guessing their debt load and how wealthy their family was (as measured by how much the student expected their family would financially contribute to their education). That chips away at the narrative that "for-profit colleges [are] preying on unwitting students who do not understand that they are signing up for significant debt loads," Brookings researchers Beth Akers and Matthew Chingos write.

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