College Board Study Claims Half of For-profit Students Borrow $30k

More than half of students at for-profit colleges borrow $30,500 or more, which means students in that sector are more likely to exit their studies deeper in debt, according to a College Board study released this morning.

Fifty-three percent of students in for-profits had a cumulative debt load of $30,500 or more as of 2007-08, according to the study, titled Who Borrows Most? By contrast, only 24 percent of students in not-for-profit private institutions and 12 percent in public colleges had that level of debt.

High debt, of course, could mean repayment problems. The study deems anyone with more than $30,000 in debt to be at risk of eventual default.

"Borrowing for college is a wise investment for most students, but it is difficult for students to estimate in advance how much they will be able to comfortably repay after they graduate," the study states. "Too many students are among the minority who borrow amounts that are likely to cause them difficulties, particularly if their earnings are either below average or unusually uneven over time."

(Disclaimer: The Washington Post Company owns Kaplan, which operates a for-profit higher education provider called Kaplan University.)

The study also found the debt burden higher among several categories of students who would seem least able to repay the money. Independent students with dependents of their own (meaning students who have children and aren’t being supported by their own parents) are more likely (25 percent) to have high debt than any category of dependent students, including those from households earning more than $100,000 a year.

About half of for-profit students of every income level — independent or dependent — have high debt, including 53 percent of students from households earning $30,000 or less a year. In other words, half of those students have college debt totaling more than their parents earn in a year.

Black students are far more likely than white students to have high college debt levels. Among black students who are self-supporting, 34 percent have high debt.


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